Players-only meeting helped spark Clippers’ much-needed win over Bucks
Even coach Doc Rivers was moved by the way his three leaders handled a delicate situation during these adverse times for the Clippers.
The injury-depleted team had lost four consecutive games and was in danger of seeing all hope of reaching the Western Conference playoffs fade away when DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Lou Williams made their voices heard about the group’s plight.
The trio had called a meeting Tuesday night for only the players aboard their flight from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to discuss the fate of the team.
What struck Doc Rivers was how the words of Jordan, Austin Rivers and Williams became their deeds when the three took responsibility for leading the Clippers to the 127-120 win Wednesday over the Bucks on the second night of back-to-back games.
“It was interesting. They met [Tuesday] night, and DJ and Austin basically said, ‘We got to lead. We got to lead. We got to lead with our play, with our energy and with our effort,’ ” the coach said. “And I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Those two guys and Tobias [Harris] and Lou … I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
“When you put yourself on the line like that, you got to go out and do it. I thought they all did it.”
Jordan (25 points), Rivers (22) and Williams (19) combined for 66 of the Clippers’ 127 points.
Williams (eight assists), Jordan (four) and Rivers (four) combined for 17 of the Clippers’ 26 assists.
Jordan and Rivers, essentially the last two players left from the Clippers’ playoff runs in recent seasons, don’t want to see the streak of six consecutive postseason berths snapped.
The Clippers (38-33) are two games out of a shot at the playoffs — Utah (40-31) is in eighth place in the West — yet only four games behind fourth-place Oklahoma City (43-30).
“It’s important because they know what it takes and they know how hard it is,” Doc Rivers said. “And I thought both of them after the [Minnesota] game and in the meeting [Tuesday] night, I thought they were both great.”
Rivers, Johnson keep the faith
Doc Rivers has not lost faith in Wesley Johnson, starting his enigmatic small forward against the Bucks on Wednesday night.
In another up-and-down season, the athletic Johnson had a solid outing against the Milwaukee.
Although he made only two of his nine shots for seven points, it was his defense that stood out.
“I told Wes I could care less if he makes one shot,” Rivers said after the win. “We need Wes’ length and his defense, and I thought he did that tonight.”
Johnson said he listened intently to his coach’s instructions and tried to apply them as best as he could.
“I know Doc told me to use my activity, use my length, use my athleticism as far as on the defensive end,” Johnson said. “He told me to get in gaps and know the rotations. I think he just wants me to be focused and locked in on that end. Offensively, he said, whatever. So I have to stay in the flow of the game.”
When: 4 p.m. Friday
On the air: TV — Prime Ticket; Radio — 570, 1330.
Update: The Pacers are one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference because of their defense and the play of All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. He’s averaging 23.3 points, 13th-best in the NBA, and 2.24 steals, tops in the league, in each game. The Pacers have the ninth-ranked defense, giving up 104.2 points a game.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.