In the final five minutes of the fourth quarter during the game Monday, the Clippers were outscored 11-0 by the Golden State Warriors.
The Clippers’ ball movement, once free-flowing, devolved into a series of one-on-one possessions. Their defense, once stingy, repeatedly lost track of sharpshooter Klay Thompson and paid for the mistakes.
Instinct told coach Doc Rivers not to say much during the huddle between the fourth quarter and overtime.
“They were frustrated, they were upset at themselves, and so what would I add to that?” he said. “That’s what I was thinking.”
The Clippers rebounded for a 121-116 victory but it remains to be seen how the Warriors move on from what took place during their huddle just down the Staples Center court’s sideline.
Draymond Green and Kevin Durant bickered during the break in play over Green’s decision to hold onto the ball and not pass to an open Durant or Thompson during the fourth quarter’s final play, which ended in a turnover. Green reportedly fired back in part by voicing his displeasure that Durant hasn’t squashed talk of his potential free agency in 2019. The argument continued later into the locker room.
Golden State suspended Green without pay for one game and the two players hadn’t spoken with each other in the 24 hours after the confrontation, general manager Bob Myers said Wednesday. One Warriors player anonymously told The Athletic that “with what was said, there is already no way Durant is coming back” next season.
The Clippers, who will have salary-cap space to sign a superstar free agent next summer, have been floated as a possible destination for Durant should he decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent.
Though Rivers has described the current Clippers roster as a harmonious bunch of selfless players, he has plenty of experience overseeing teams with deep cracks in the foundation in Boston and L.A. No single cure-all exists.
“It depends on each individual situation and what’s said and how personal it becomes. … Sometimes it doesn’t have any affect and you think personally it’s pretty ugly what he said to the other guy. Sometimes it can be minuscule but that guy took it like it was pretty ugly to him and it’s affected him. You stay on top of that, there’s no doubt about that,” Rivers said.
Despite the victory, Rivers said he “wasn’t happy” leaving the arena and those fourth-quarter struggles were a key factor.
“It’s how we won, we could’ve played better, so that’s my job there,” he said. “We did a couple things defensively that we just can’t do to win games down the stretch. I told them after the game, ‘Let’s be good, let’s not be lucky.’ The thing I like about our team is we’re gonna get better. We’re going to get a lot better.
Avery Bradley is close to returning
After sitting out the last four games because of an injured left ankle, guard Avery Bradley practiced and has been listed as questionable to play Thursday against San Antonio at Staples Center.
A more likely return date for Bradley is Saturday at Brooklyn, the opener of a three-game trip.
Bradley’s absence has overlapped with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s four starts but the 11th overall pick in June’s draft had earned a promotion from the bench regardless of Bradley’s health, Rivers has said.
With the expectation that Gilgeous-Alexander will remain a starter upon Bradley’s return, there is a question of which guard will join the rookie in the lineup. In the 111 minutes Gilgeous-Alexander has played with Patrick Beverley, the Clippers have given up slightly more points than they score every 100 possessions, according to NBA.com data. The pairing of Gilgeous-Alexander and Bradley has produced a much tougher backcourt defensively in 46 minutes together but is one of the team’s worst at creating points. The result has been a minus-18.6 net rating.
“We’ll see,” Rivers said. “We’re a team that can change so we’ll just see how that goes.”
A reserve role would be an adjustment for the 27-year-old Bradley, who has started 106 consecutive games. His return will be welcomed regardless. Rivers has called Bradley the Clippers’ best defender.
In the four games Bradley and Luc Mbah a Moute, another top defender, have sat out, opponents have shot slightly better from the field and on three-point attempts. During the same span, the Clippers’ defense ranks 22nd in points given up per 100 possessions. In their previous nine games, the Clippers had ranked fifth in that category.
Thompson, the Warriors guard, said the defense was “good, but they’re nothing special” Monday and the comments quickly got back to the Clippers.
“It wasn’t special, it was good,” Rivers said. “So I agree with Klay.”
VS. SAN ANTONIO
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m..
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: This is the first of three games the Clippers will play on a national TNT broadcast, with the others coming Nov. 29 at Sacramento and Dec. 20 vs. Dallas. Center Marcin Gortat needed only eight minutes Monday to tie his season high of eight points and he finished with 12. Clippers guard Lou Williams leads all NBA reserves with 19.1 points per game and has been particularly effective toward the end of regulation. His 105 points in the fourth quarter are second-most among all players, behind Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (112).