When asked if Marreese Speights or Paul Pierce would start against the Jazz in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series in which the Clippers trail 3-2, Rivers said, “Yeah, one of them.”
Speights started games 4 and 5 after power forward Blake Griffin went down in Game 3 for the rest of the playoffs because of a plantar plate injury to his right big toe.
But Pierce started the second half in Game 5 in place of Speights.
“Paul was good,” Rivers said. “He’s been good throughout the series overall, I will say that. But he’s got to play better too, especially with his second effort, getting out to the shooters and stuff like that.”
Pierce had six points by making both of his three-point shots in the 13 minutes 47 seconds he played.
Speights had just one point and two rebounds in 13:11.
Pierce is playing his final season after 19 years in the NBA.
But for a player who is about to retire, Pierce, 39, has been a relentless worker every day and always is one of the first Clippers to arrive at the practice facility, Chris Paul said.
“At 19 years in, not knowing how many minutes he’s going to play ... he’s just a consummate pro,” Paul said before Thursday’s practice. “He’s ready when Coach calls his name. If he was the last one here, nobody would trip. That’s Paul Pierce. But he doesn’t operate like that.”
More playing time for Austin Rivers
Austin Rivers was limited to just 17:47 of playing time in Game 5 after being out almost a month because of a strained left hamstring.
But Doc Rivers said Austin’s minutes can be increased in Game 6.
The coach said the team would be careful that Austin “doesn’t do too much” at practice Thursday and during the shoot-around Friday.
The player missed the first four games of the series and the last six regular-season games after he was injured March 29 against the Washington Wizards.
His stamina is an issue because he has been out so long.
“He was awful. His timing, you could see, [was off]. I predicted he would bobble [basketballs],” Doc Rivers said of Austin Rivers’ Game 5 showing. “That’s fine. Like, I can live with that. He had two great downhill drives that he missed both, but we ended up scoring on both.
“For him, he was probably frustrated that he missed. For us, we were like, ‘All right. Someone is going downhill.’ So I don’t know if one game and one practice will help, but I think he’ll be a little bit better tomorrow.”