They are on the verge of making history, one step away from accomplishing something no other Clippers’ team has ever done.
All the Clippers have to do is defeat the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals and they will reach the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
But to Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, it’s not about getting ahead of the process.
The Clippers may have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven second-round series and just need a win to eliminate the Rockets to advance, but Rivers has refused to look past Game 5.
“No, I think that’s a silly thought,” Rivers said Monday at the team’s hotel in Houston. “We haven’t done it. For us, we’ve got to stay focused. We’ve got to win a series and that hasn’t happened yet.”
The ultimate goal, of course, is to win the NBA championship.
But to get to the Finals, the Clippers first must reach the Western Conference finals.
All that sounds good, but Rivers wasn’t buying any of that.
He was sticking with his coach speak of one game at a time.
“Listen, we’re not even talking about the conference,” Rivers said. “Obviously that’s what you guys [in the media] are going to talk about. We’re talking about the next game. That’s all we talk about. We’ve done that all year. I’ve said it all year: We’re a single-game-minded team. That’s basically what we’re focused on.”
Howard was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Monday for making contact above the shoulders on Barnes.
Barnes, who was fined $50,000 by the NBA last week for directing inappropriate language in Game 2 at a fan that turned out to be James Harden’s mom, didn’t retaliate when hit by Howard at Staples Center on Sunday.
“It means attaboy for Matt for turning the other check, literally,” Rivers said. “Really. To me that’s a sign of toughness from Matt. I tell our guys all the time, anyone can hit. The tougher guys are the ones who take the hit and keep moving forward.
“I thought Matt did a good job of that, because it was a nice blow. But instead of getting sidetracked and us losing our composure, we just kept playing. I think that’s been very important for us.”