An hour before Wednesday night's playoff game,
"Focus!" he shouted.
He wasn't talking to players. He was talking to writers.
Soon thereafter, before the Clippers engaged the
Except Crawford didn't smile. And Rivers didn't smile. And even though Crawford dutifully held the trophy above his head, he didn't speak.
Two games into their third postseason under Rivers, one thing has become obvious. These are serious Clippers. These are grown-up Clippers. They've adopted
They've also done something no other Clippers team has done under Rivers. They have won the first two games of a postseason series, triumphing, 102-81, against the wide-eyed Trail Blazers on Wednesday to make a powerful statement.
This isn't cute Lob City. This is no fun Clip Joint. This is a glaring team clearly scarred from past postseason failures, a team intent on playing every possession with the sort of consistent intensity that has often disappeared with the coming of summer.
"I think our focus has been fantastic," said Rivers.
One can never write that a Clippers series is over, but this one feels like it. One can never say the Clippers are going to steamroll into the next round, but this sure looks like it. A 20-point win in the opener, and a 21-point win Wednesday, and how are the Trail Blazers going to beat them four out of the next five?
It started Wednesday with serious depth. The Clippers' bench stole the show from some of the slow-starting starters. Crawford scored 11.
The bench was at its best at the start of the fourth quarter when the Trail Blazers closed the gap to six. The subs roared back with big moments everywhere, including
"They just changed the game for us, they were spectacular tonight," said Doc Rivers of his subs. "I thought on both sends, they saved the game for us tonight."
It continued Wednesday with serious defense. The hot and hip Trail Blazers barely made a third of their shots. The Clippers swarmed and swatted and stifled Portland stars
It finished with serious leadership. The injured Griffin struggled as if his body had not yet recovered from his brilliant Game 1, making just four baskets. But Paul and
And, oh yeah, Griffin finally found his legs midway through the fourth quarter to score on a thunderous dunk, so there's that.
No more dunks over cars. No more jokes about State Farm commercials. Just a team intent on finishing a reeling opponent when it needs to be finished.
Clippers fans also get it. They are no longer just happy to be here, either. During a timeout promotion in the second quarter, a fan in a Clippers T-shirt was being interviewed on the court. He suddenly gave a shout-out to Bryant and was roundly booed off the floor.
The Clippers aren't joking. They've been here, they've done this, they've melted during the early heat of the last two springs, they don't want to live through it again.
"Guys know how valuable each game is, they know how valuable each possession is," said Paul.
They will never forget last season against Houston, blowing the 19-point lead in the third quarter of a potential clinching Game 6 against the
They will never forget two seasons ago, leading the
They won't forget the past years, and they are still smarting from their recent turmoil, the failures of
"Our core guys have been together three years now, and gone through a lot this year, we've had no choice," said Rivers. "Obviously I would have chosen not to go through some of the stuff, but in some ways that may have helped us."
River said their horrid postseason history has hardened them.
"Let's be honest, we've had two tough [postseasons]," he said. "Everybody, when you lose in the playoffs, you don't leave the right way, but ours felt like they were tougher the last two years, that's kind of made us grow as well."
Serious basketball. With Golden State coming, it's a good time for it.