There has been a measure of pressure placed on the shoulders of Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari by coach Doc Rivers.
To have any chance at defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 on Sunday at Staples Center and winning the best-of-seven first-round playoff series the Clippers trail 2-1, Rivers singled out Gallinari as the key to their success.
“If I had to pick the guys who — Gal’s No. 1. If Gal doesn’t play better, we can’t win,” Rivers said Friday before his team practiced. “And that’s on him, and that’s on me. That’s on both of us. We gotta give him the proper things for him to play well and then he’s gotta go play. That’s No. 1.”
Rivers’ comments came on the heels of a subpar performance by Gallinari during a 132-105 loss in Game 3 in which he missed 11 of his 13 shots and all eight of his three-pointers.
Gallinari had only nine points, six rebounds and three assists, but he was a minus-25 in the plus-minus department.
As for Gallinari, he knew that it was “not a good night” for him against the two-time defending champion Warriors.
“It was me,” he said Thursday night in accepting blame. “Most of the three-point shots were wide open. I’ve just got to make them.”
Overall in the three games of the series, Gallinari is averaging a respectable 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals. But he’s making only 31.1% of his shots and 30% of his three-pointers.
“Just make shots next game,” Gallinari said about his approach to Game 4. “It’s one game out of all the games that I’ve played this year that I didn’t shoot the ball well. So I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen again.”
For Rivers, it’s simple what the Clippers have to do against the Warriors in order to scratch out a Game 4 win.
“Like, we’ve got to get Gal playing better, bottom line, on both ends, too,” Rivers said. “He’s got to rebound better. He’s got to be more assertive offensively. We have to put him in positions to do that and I have every confidence that he will because that’s what he’s done all year.
“But he’s a big key for us and so far other than that one quarter in Game 2, they’ve been very good at guarding him and we’ve not been very good at taking advantage of what he can do for us.”
Watching his starters struggle against the Warriors led Rivers to contemplate making changes to the lineup.
“I don’t know if we will,” Rivers said of making changes, “but there is” a chance.
The dynamic duo of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell could be candidates to start, but they also form the best pair of reserves off the bench in the NBA.
River might also consider JaMychal Green, who had 15 points off the bench in Game 3.
Green had his technical foul he received along with Kevin Durant in the third quarter of Game 3 rescinded by the NBA on Friday.
“I thought JaMychal played pretty well,” Rivers said, mentioning Green’s ability to play different positions. “I think he gives us a lot of versatility. He can play 5, 4 and 3, in some cases. So he’s playing a lot of positions.”