The Clippers’ 20-point lead was rapidly evaporating late in the fourth quarter Wednesday in an exhibition against the Toronto Raptors when Coach Doc Rivers called a timeout to keep the game from slipping away.
Rivers smiled when he drew up a play before sending his team back onto the court, perhaps sensing that with the ball in point guard Raymond Felton’s hands that the result would be favorable to the Clippers.
And it was, because Felton displayed a cool veteran’s presence in a tense moment and calmly scored the game-sealing basket. It was an example of why the Clippers so badly wanted to sign the free agent to be Chris Paul’s backup.
Felton, entering his 13th NBA season after spending the last two with the Dallas Mavericks, joined the Clippers because he wants what they want: a championship.
“This team has a great core,” Felton said after the Clippers held off the Raptors, 104-98, at Staples Center. “And I just wanted to bring some more leadership and add a veteran to the team to maybe possibly help the guys achieve that goal. The ultimate goal is to try to win a championship.”
The Clippers liked the idea of having the 32-year-old Felton keep the team running smoothly while Paul rested.
Unable to acquire the long-term deal he was seeking, Felton agreed in late July to sign with the Clippers for the veteran’s minimum of $1.5 million.
“I just liked his toughness,” Rivers said. “Every coach you talked to loved him. They said he was great in the locker room.”
In Dallas last season, Felton started in 31 of the 80 games he played. Overall, he averaged 9.5 points, 3.6 assists and 27.4 minutes a game.
There were games when Felton was joined in three-guard lineup by some combination of Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea.
So when Rivers started Felton against the Raptors alongside guards Paul and Austin Rivers, it was a familiar setting for Felton.
“That’s fun to me,” Felton said. “I love to play that way. To get an opportunity to play and how successful we was, that’s fun to see. I hope we’ll do it a little bit during the season.”
That Clippers’ lead was down to 98-96 on Wednesday when they came out of a timeout with 58.2 seconds to play.
As Felton surveyed the floor with the clock winding down, he put a hand in the air to direct his teammates. He then scored on a nine-foot shot with 37.3 seconds left.
Smiles creased the faces of Rivers and Felton, who scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“[Rivers] does a great job of drawing things up,” Felton said, “and it’s our job to go out there and execute it.”
Rivers said that rookie forward Brice Johnson “hurt his back” late in Wednesday’s game. The Clippers did not give an update on Johnson’s condition Thursday.