With the Clippers faltering, Doc Rivers tinkers with his bench

With the Clippers faltering, Doc Rivers tinkers with his bench
Clippers guard Raymond Felton reacts to a referee's call during a game against the Grizzlies as Memphis'Mike Conley, left, and JaMychal Green look on. (Gus Ruelas / Associated Press)

There was no backbreaking run this time in the Clippers’ latest loss, only a gradual run for the other team. 

Earlier this season, the Clippers could count on their second unit for energy and for the most part to generate a lot more points than whatever they gave up.


But that was not the case Sunday in the second quarter of an eventual 111-102 loss to the Pacers. That has also not been the case in the Clippers' recent slump as they have lost four of six games and Coach Doc Rivers has been tinkering with what had been the league's best five-man bench group.

At the start of the season, his second unit was Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Wesley Johnson and Marreese Speights.

But then Johnson missed five games with a heel injury and Doc Rivers replaced him with veteran power forward Brandon Bass. Johnson received his regular minutes in the five games after returning, but the Clippers eventually lost three straight and Rivers replaced him with 39-year-old forward Paul Pierce

"I think [Pierce] probably knows the positioning better than anyone," Rivers said of plugging Pierce in for Johnson. "Like the Cleveland game, he had two plays where he was in the right spot defensively. That was more of a defensive decision."

Pierce was at power forward when the Clippers' full second unit took the court Sunday against the Pacers. The Clippers led by 13 with 1:04 left in the first quarter, but the Pacers shaved the gap to six points before the starters returned in the middle of the second.

While the Pacers hit an offensive groove against the second unit, the Clippers' offense stalled. There was little pace, the ball movement wasn't as crisp and shots did not fall. Pierce — who, statistically, has made the bench lineup less efficient on both ends of the floor — did not return to the game.

Rivers went with Johnson for three minutes in the second half, but then swapped him out. The Clippers' bench was a defining strength throughout its league-best 14-2 start; now Rivers is looking for a way to make it so once again.

"[Johnson] had a run, [Pierce] had a little run for us and they both will play," Rivers said after the loss Sunday. "It's a long year. I'm not concerned by those two right now. We've got to get the whole team going."

Rest for the weary 

"Do we? We finally get two days off, huh?" asked Clippers point guard Chris Paul, sarcastically after Sunday's game.

The Clippers have not had back-to-back off days since late October.

The Clippers had an off day Monday and will practice on Tuesday before hosting the surging Warriors (17-3) on Wednesday.

After falling to the Pacers, Clippers forward Blake Griffin said the team has had one "real practice" since the start of the season.

"I mean we've been talking about this for three weeks now," Griffin said. "It's like that vacation you got coming up and it seems like it's never going to get there and now it's finally here."


Twitter: @dougherty_jesse