It might have felt more like a getting-to-know-you session than a pregame pep talk, Doc Rivers going from player to player in the Clippers' locker room before the opener of the Western Conference semifinals.
And on it went, the Clippers coach ticking off each player's name while trying to get them to understand they needed to be themselves and not overcompensate for the absence of Chris Paul.
Paul sat out the Clippers' 117-101 victory over the Houston Rockets because of a strained left hamstring that Doc Rivers would not allow his point guard to test for fear he might aggravate the injury and miss the rest of the series.
The Clippers persevered without the eight-time All-Star and might have to try for a repeat in Game 2 on Wednesday night after Rivers said there was a "50-50" chance Paul would play against the Rockets.
"I would say before [Monday] night I thought there would be a good chance [Paul would play in Game 2] and so I would probably lean that way," Rivers said Tuesday, "but I just don't know. He looked good walking [Tuesday]."
Rivers said the Clippers' unexpected victory in Game 1 against a rested team playing on its home court did not change his opinion about whether Paul should play Wednesday. If Paul is considered sufficiently recovered from the injury he sustained in Game 7 of the Clippers' first-round series, Rivers said, he will not have to break out another sports coat and sit on the bench.
That could make Clippers trainer Jasen Powell the team's most scrutinized figure in the next few days.
"It's a hard injury to be a trainer because he, at some point, is going to give you the thumbs-up and he's going to be sweating that whole night because that's an injury you just don't know," Rivers said. "And it's an injury you can't do an X-ray [on] and say that you're all right. It's an injury that you have to trust your player, which is the worst kind of trust in this situation."
The Clippers showed they had a high level of belief in one another during their second-half comeback against the Rockets, getting contributions from more than star forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan. All five starters scored in double figures, Jamal Crawford added 21 points off the bench and fill-in point guard Austin Rivers remembered his father's advice on the way to a steady 17-point, four-steal, three-assist performance in his first career playoff start.
"I can't run the same sets he does," Austin Rivers said afterward, referring to Paul, "and there are sets I run that he can't run."
It seems as if no one can match the all-around proficiency of Griffin, who is averaging 24.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists in the playoffs, numbers matched in NBA postseason history only by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. Griffin has three triple-doubles in eight playoff games.
Doc Rivers said the uptick in rebounding was the biggest difference in Griffin's play because his scoring and passing have been constants all season.
Redick, who scored all 17 of his points in Game 1 after halftime, said he and Griffin engage in a pregame ritual that doubles as a moment of mutual admiration.
"We dab each other up and he says 'best shooter in the world' to me, and I say 'best player in the world' to him," Redick said.
Of course, the Clippers would prefer to go into their next game with what might be the best point guard in the world. Not that they expect the Rockets to succumb at the sight of Paul in game attire.
"The games are going to be hard without Chris," Rivers said, "the games are going to be hard with Chris."