They were widely dismissed as the same old Clippers, too mentally fragile to fight back from consecutive losses in the playoffs against a supposedly deeper, savvier team.
Their shortcomings were spelled out in painful detail for each of them to see during a 2 1/2-hour film session in a hotel ballroom on the eve of a must-win game against the defending NBA champions.
Rivers was still talking about his players Sunday afternoon, only the substance of his words had flipped 180 degrees after the Clippers out-toughed the San Antonio Spurs during a 114-105 victory at the AT&T Center in Game 4 of their first-round series.
Paul was the aggressive force his team needed on the way to 34 points and seven assists while playing most of the fourth quarter with five fouls. J.J. Redick got going after three lackluster games, making half of his shots and scoring 17 points. Blake Griffin flirted with his second triple-double of the series, finishing with 20 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists. Austin Rivers provided a surprise boost, scoring 16 points off the league's most-maligned bench.
It was quite the turnaround for a team largely declared dead only 24 hours earlier.
"Our guys just thought, all right, we didn't play well, let's lace them back up and see what happens," Doc Rivers said, "and I thought we did that."
The Clippers reclaimed home-court advantage in the process, with a series tied at two games apiece returning to Staples Center for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
The decisive plays went entirely in the Clippers' favor during a fourth quarter in which they extended a five-point lead to as many as 14, Redick's three-pointer off a Paul pass giving them a 106-92 advantage.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Kawhi Leonard (26 points) pulled the Spurs to within eight, but Leonard missed a jumper that could have shaved the deficit to six and Paul made the last of his 10 free throws in 10 attempts to secure a triumph that seemed unlikely after the Clippers' 27-point setback in Game 3.
"We completely turned it around and played exactly the way we wanted to play," Griffin said.
The reasons for that went much deeper than the Clippers' shooting 53.6% to the Spurs' 44%. The Clippers were sturdier, smarter and more spirited.
Austin Rivers drove fearlessly at San Antonio power forward Tim Duncan early in the fourth quarter, making the layup and drawing a foul on the soon-to-be Hall of Famer.
The Spurs were so out of sorts that they couldn't even execute their hack-a-Jordan strategy correctly, failing to foul Clippers center DeAndre Jordan on command in the first half and then sending Paul, not Jordan, to the line for six consecutive free throws in the third quarter.
"We were just not very wise in a lot of the situations," San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said.
Redick, who made six of 12 shots, including three of six from three-point range, said he could sense the proper mind-set from his teammates in the game's early going.
"It was a different feeling in the first five minutes of the game," said Redick, whose open shots came as the result of improved ball movement. "Tonight, we were the aggressive team right from the start."
The only disappointment as far as Paul was concerned was that it took a beat-down in Game 3 to produce the kind of effort the Clippers wanted in Game 4.
"The great teams come out that way regardless," Paul said, "and hopefully we learned something today."