Doc Rivers used a politically incorrect term to describe the smallish stature of a reserve lineup that has featured three and occasionally four guards in recent games.
"I tell them in the huddles they're a bunch of midgets," the Clippers coach said Sunday, "so if you're going to be out there you have to create havoc."
Rivers wasn't trying to embarrass anyone, he just wanted to reinforce the style of play he was seeking, particularly on defense. He wants his reserves to be active with their hands, forcing deflections and turnovers that lead to easy baskets.
Whatever you call the reserve unit, it's working.
Jamal Crawford scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter Sunday at Staples Center as the Clippers turned a close game against the Chicago Bulls into a 120-93 rout.
Crawford made 11 of 15 shots and was an equally skilled distributor, finding Wesley Johnson in the corner for an open three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Crawford finished the game with three assists.
"People still forget, he used to be a point guard earlier in his career, so it's not like he can't pass, he just would rather shoot," Rivers said. "But he just made terrific plays."
Austin Rivers scored 16 points on five-for-seven shooting and Johnson added 11 points as the Clippers reserves outscored their Bulls counterparts, 58-18.
Afterward, Austin Rivers didn't seem thrilled about his father's verbiage regarding the second unit.
"I heard that. I told him to stop calling me that," said Rivers, who is 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds. "He said that in the huddle. He was like, 'Y'all are the midgets.' I was like, 'You must be talking to Pablo [Prigioni], Chris [Paul], even Jamal because he's skinny.' I was like, 'You can't call me a midget, man. I don't want 'Austin' and 'midget' to be in the same sentence out there in the world."
Said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan: "With that group Austin is the center, so no wonder he doesn't like it."
Day and night
Paul Pierce's three-day break, which included sitting out a game against the Lakers on Friday, didn't seem to rejuvenate him against the Bulls.
The veteran forward missed all six of his shots, including five three-pointers, and went scoreless with two assists and one rebound in 15 minutes. He also struggled defensively, with the Clippers rushing Johnson into the game midway through the first quarter to help out against the Bulls' large frontline.
Doc Rivers said the time of day may have had something to do with Pierce's struggles.
"We just shouldn't play him in afternoon games," Rivers said. "I mean, honestly, we're going to go look at his plus-minus in afternoon games. I don't know what it is."
Pierce has played slightly better with more days off, averaging 6.3 points per game on three or more days of rest as opposed to 5.7 points or worse on less rest. His sweet spot seems to be playing between 20 and 29 minutes per game, in which he's averaged 9.9 points per game. His production has dropped off greatly while he has played 30 minutes or more, averaging only 4.5 points per game.
"You just try to figure that out," Rivers said of getting the most out of the 38-year-old. "Paul is a work in progress because I've never had to do this with Paul, so I don't know if we're doing it the right way or not, to be honest."
Rivers was selected Western Conference coach of the month after guiding the Clippers to an 11-3 record, their best January in franchise history.