Even in the face of adversity, despite all his team’s health issues, coach Doc Rivers demanded that his Clippers stand tall.
The Clippers had just lost to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors by 16 points on Saturday — trailing at one point by as much as 30 points — when a defiant Rivers entered the locker room and told his team to fear no one.
“You back up to no one — ever!” Rivers told reporters of his message to the players.
He had sensed some easing up because the Clippers had lost Blake Griffin to a concussion in the first quarter.
Rivers had sensed some doubt because the Clippers were also without Danilo Gallinari (left glute injury), Austin Rivers (right ankle injury), Milos Teodosic (left foot plantar fasciitis) and Patrick Beverley (season-ending right knee surgery).
But Doc Rivers wanted to reassure his players that all is never lost despite these difficult times.
He wanted his players to compete no matter the circumstances.
“We know we got all these injuries,” the coach said. “So, you step in and don’t back up. And if they’re better, let them be better. But make them be better.”
Rivers paused and then added:
“Overall, I just want fighters right now,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to have to have.”
The Clippers have mostly been fighters through these tempestuous times.
The question now is can they keep up the good fight? Can they remain strong when the walls take one hit after another?
“Listen, they are human,” Rivers said. “And mentally … you know, the last three games you lose Austin, Milos and Blake right in front of them, and mentally that affects you. There’s no doubt about that, especially when you lose them during the game, where they go out during the games. So clearly that has an effect.
“But, I think they’ll be back to who we’ve been all year by next game. I thought [Saturday] got them. But we’ll be back.”
Rivers has had help from veterans DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams in getting his message across.
There was a moment in the third quarter when rookie Jawun Evans got lost on defense and then fouled Stephen Curry on a three-point attempt.
Jordan pulled Evans aside and lit into his young teammate. But before Curry shot his three free throws, Jordan patted Evans on the back.
There was a moment in the third quarter when Williams got into the face of rookie Sindarius Thornwell for a missed defensive assignment. Williams then patted Thornwell on the back.
“Lou and DJ, yeah, they’re coaching with me,” Rivers said. “They really are.”
When: 7:30 p.m., Monday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: The Clippers have defeated the Hawks three consecutive games and four of the last five games. The Hawks will be playing the second night of back-to-back games.