One reason for Rivers' optimism despite uneven results this season is a starting lineup he says matches up well with anyone's in the
"When you look at our five against everybody else's five," Rivers said Monday, "they're as good or better. And you know in the playoffs, you're not playing but eight [players] anyway."
The Clippers have two of the league's top players in point guard
The numbers largely back up Rivers' contention. The Clippers' starters entered Tuesday's games ranked first in efficiency, an advanced metric that takes into account points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and turnovers.
For those more comfortable with traditional statistics, the Clippers' starters ranked first in field-goal percentage (50.2), second in assists (18.0 per game), third in turnovers (8.0) and fourth in points (75.6) and rebounds (30.8).
Barnes' recent play has been particularly encouraging. He has experienced a progressive uptick in points and rebounds each month this season, averaging 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in January while shooting 50.6%.
"He's healthier, he's feeling great, he's just playing harder, better and with more confidence," Rivers said. "He had a pretty tough start and it takes a while to get out of that when you go into a little slump and even though you shoot yourself out of it, it's still in your mind that it was there and I think he's out of it now."
Teams have recently made a habit of intentionally fouling Jordan late in games, with mixed success.
Jordan missed a combined six of eight free throws in those situations against Sacramento and Boston, but the Clippers won both games.
Rivers sat Jordan the game's final 4 minutes 22 seconds against the
Rivers said he would continue to assess whether to remove Jordan from games. Jordan is making 39.9% of his free throws this season.
"He knows and I know going into every game that it's a decision every night that I'm probably going to have to make," Rivers said.
Said Jordan: "It's Doc's decision, whatever it may be."
On the board
He went on to miss his other two shots and is now one for 10 in three games, but his offense wasn't the primary reason the Clippers wanted him as Paul's backup. Rivers continued to be assertive on the defensive end and had more assists (three) than turnovers (two) against the
There was another upside to the acquisition, according to Austin's father.
"Honestly, that's one of the reasons for the Austin [trade] was his size," Doc Rivers said, "and now we have to try to shore up a couple of more spots on our bench, but I like where we're headed."