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Clippers

Clippers coach Doc Rivers does not want to overthink why the Clippers have blown big leads

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - DEC. 8, 2018. Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari drives to the basket against
Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield in the second quarter on Wednesday at Staples Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

When the Clippers lost narrowly to Golden State on Sunday, the defeat nagged at Doc Rivers.

His team led by as many as 11 points and the coach wanted a few do-overs on decisions he acknowledged as coaching mistakes.

“I was so upset at that game,” Rivers said.

There was less angst after he watched another double-digit Clippers lead crumble Wednesday.

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Once leading by 27 points against Sacramento at Staples Center, the Clippers allowed a 19-0 run midway through the fourth quarter and suddenly a blowout was a close game again. Only after a jump shot by Lou Williams and blocked shot by Montrezl Harrell did the Clippers (20-14) hang on in the final minute.

Had the Kings rallied to win, it would have marked the largest lost lead in Clippers history during a regular-season game. Instead, it was their 20th victory — and it came two weeks earlier than the franchise earned its 20th win last season.

I’m going to let you guys overdo last night,” Rivers told reporters Thursday before the team’s practice. “Last night was a team came in with a 23-point lead and it’s easy to have the wrong attitude when that happens, but it’s not like we have a history of doing that. So last night, was we won and we got away with it.”

When center Boban Marjanovic and guard Sindarius Thornwell checked in to join guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Ty Wallace and forward Mike Scott with 6:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Clippers led 118-95 and the Kings had removed their starters.

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It was 118-105 when the Clippers called a timeout with 4:08 left. Rivers kept the lineup in the game after the timeout, only to see Kings reserve Ben McLemore hit a three-pointer, Thornwell turn the ball over and another reserve, Frank Mason, score on a fast-break layup. Rivers called timeout again, and this time substituted in five new players.

Rivers said he doesn’t use a master philosophy for fixing an unproductive lineup. Sometimes he’ll call a quick timeout and make personnel changes. Sometimes, he’ll allow the lineup to play through it. He went with the latter on Wednesday.

“I think it depends on the guys on the floor in the game — what if that was your starters and that happened, what do you do?” he said. “Do you take them all out? You probably don’t. So it just depends on the situation.”

There was another reason Rivers considered Wednesday’s poor fourth quarter an exception. The lineup at the heart of it — Gilgeous-Alexander, Wallace, Thornwell, Scott and Marjanovic— had played together only once before this season, for seven minutes. They’ve now been together 10 minutes this season and have produced 15 points while allowing 31.

LeBron and the Lakers

The Clippers practiced Thursday in preparation for their first regular-season matchup against the Lakers. The teams played during the preseason in a game that LeBron James missed, and the All-Star forward is expected to miss Friday’s game at Staples Center because of a strained groin.

After coaching against James for nine seasons in the Eastern Conference, Rivers said he was “shocked” to see the ultra-durable James injured during the Lakers’ win over Golden State on Christmas.

“Even when he did it, even when he said, ‘It popped,’ I was watching the game and I said, ‘He’ll be in for the next play,’” Rivers said. “I’ve seen him twist his ankle when his ankle bone hit the floor and he dunked the next play, you know? He’s different than a lot of us, so it is unusual.

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“And I think where he doesn’t get enough credit, I think a lot of that is mental toughness. I think he’s so mentally tough, as crazy as it sounds, he’s just not going to be injured. And there’s a lot of guys who accept injuries and there’s a few guys who just say, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna be injured.’ And LeBron is in that category. It’s rare, but it’s another reason why he’s great.”

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Update: In collecting 22 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two steals in Wednesday’s victory against Sacramento, Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell became only the eighth player in the last decade to produce that stat line. He joins Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki.

andrew.greif@latimes.com

Twitter: @andrewgreif

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