Of course, that would have entailed missing all the fun that followed.
Chris Paul was shoved to the court Wednesday night and pushed back as only he can, the veteran point guard leading the Clippers to a frantic 126-122 come-from-behind victory over the
Paul collected a season-high 41 points to go with 17 assists and only one turnover while helping the Clippers compile their biggest comeback of the season after trailing by 19 points in the second quarter.
"It was a very, very good win for us, clearly, one of the better ones if not the best one of the year," Rivers said of his team, which was playing for the second time in two days after returning from an East Coast trip.
Paul coolly made four free throws in the final 8.5 seconds to deny the Trail Blazers a chance to clinch the Northwest Division.
The Clippers (50-26) moved one game ahead of Portland (48-26) for home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs and claimed the season series by winning three of four games against the Trail Blazers.
"Any time he said he can beat
The Clippers were trailing, 92-81, late in the third quarter when Paul stripped the ball from Portland backup center
As players from both teams became entangled, Paul sprinted over to nudge Kaman in retaliation. Kaman received a flagrant 1 foul.
"I was real surprised," Paul said of the contact from Kaman. "I sort of know Kaman pretty well. … It's all good, though. No hard feelings."
Paul and Kaman will forever be linked after being traded for one another in December 2011 in a transaction that immediately made the Clippers contenders while beginning a series of stopovers for Kaman.
The Clippers went on a 33-11 run immediately after Kaman's push. Back-to-back three-pointers by Paul and Blake Griffin gave the Clippers a 106-100 lead midway through the fourth quarter and their team never trailed again.
DeAndre Jordan made only three of eight free throws in the final 31/2 minutes while being intentionally fouled, but Paul and Barnes each rebounded a miss to retain possession.
J.J. Redick finished with 25 points and Griffin had 24 as the Clippers outscored the Trail Blazers, 41-30, in the fourth quarter.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points for the Trail Blazers, who appeared to be on their way to an easy victory after scoring 68 points in the first half and holding a 13-point lead.
"They were flawless the first quarter and a half," Rivers said. "A lot of that was them and a lot of that was us as well."
Then came the shove that changed the arc of an evening.
"I think we were already playing well, but it just gave us a little bit more incentive," Barnes said. "Any time they try to rough our point guard up, it's going to turn us on a little bit."