A lineup made up exclusively of second-stringers probably isn’t one Clippers Coach Doc Rivers would like to turn to in the decisive moments of a taut game, but he had almost no other choice Saturday afternoon.
Starters Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick had played the entire third quarter against the Toronto Raptors, and though Rivers left all three players in the game to start the fourth quarter, he quickly subbed them out.
It was during this stretch that the Raptors went on the 13-2 run that nudged them to a 110-98 victory at Staples Center, further highlighting the struggles of a second unit that has been spotty for the Clippers this season.
Rivers acknowledged afterward that he should have taken his starters out earlier in the game to provide more flexibility in the fourth quarter.
Of course, it was easy to second-guess his decision not to mix and match starters and reserves late in the game the way things played out.
“The problem was, to keep them in the game we had to keep our starters in in the entire third quarter,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I don’t think it would have mattered. Blake had already played 12 straight minutes. Do we play him 15 when he’s already tired?”
The Clippers continue to receive little production from their bench besides the scoring of Jamal Crawford and energy plays provided by Glen Davis. Center-forward Spencer Hawes remains sidelined because of a bone bruise in his left knee and point guard Jordan Farmar, the team’s other key off-season acquisition, has made an impact in only a few games.
Rivers said he needed to simplify the offense to help the second unit become more productive. Crawford scored 20 points Saturday, but the seven other reserves who played combined for only 13 points.
“They struggle in that area too and that’s an area I didn’t anticipate them struggling in,” Rivers said. “And sometimes that’s not on Jordan, it can be on someone in the unit with him.”
Davis said optimizing the way the team integrates the starters with the reserves could help solve some of the issues.
“Doc’s got to figure out the rotation and see what we can do to help our team, especially giving the big guys rest because they’re playing a lot of minutes,” Davis said. “But being on the second team, you’ve got to be ready, you can’t make a mistake. That’s just what it is. You’re in there for short minutes and you can’t make a mistake and it’s hard to play like that but you’ve got to do it because those are your minutes.”
Redick’s team-high 23 points allowed him to surpass 5,000 for his career. He now has 5,004 points.
“It means that I’ve been in the league nine years,” said Redick, who averaged single figures in points for each of his first four seasons, “and I got off to a really slow start.”