Doc Rivers eased his way among reporters, stood with his back against a wall and blurted this out after his team’s beat-down at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks:
“I was hoping you guys didn’t show up — like us,” the Clippers coach said Friday.
Rivers and his players were blunt in their assessment, holding nothing back after the Clippers had been shredded by the Bucks 119-91 at the Fiserv Forum.
The Clippers’ margin of defeat was the largest of the season. Their 35.1% shooting was a season-low. Their 21 turnovers helped them to be down by as many as 41 points.
It was not the way the Clippers wanted to start a six-game trip and how they wanted to perform against a Bucks team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“Sometimes you just get your ass kicked,” said Lou Williams, who had five turnovers and scored only 11 points on five-for-13 shooting. “It won’t be the last time we’ll get our ass kicked this season. We just got to compete better. But sometimes teams play better than you. They want a game more than you. I think tonight they showed that. I think we just showed up to play and they showed up to kick our ass and they did that.”
With his team down 25 at the end of the third quarter, Rivers decided to give one of his best groups one last shot at some sort of redemption.
Williams, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley started the fourth quarter.
They were unable to summon anything, any run, any effort to stop the Bucks from having their way with the Clippers.
When they were finally pulled from the game and Rivers had simply pulled the plug on them with 9:25 left, the Clippers were down 101-67.
“I wanted to pull it earlier,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I really did.”
Milwaukee’s do-everything superstar and a top candidate to repeat as the NBA’s most valuable player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, did his thing to help the Bucks extend their winning streak to 14 games.
On a day when Anteto-kounmpo turned 25, he had 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on the Clippers.
“It was Giannis’ birthday and we searched all over the city to find a gift, couldn’t find one, so we gave him this one,” Rivers said. “That’s all I can come up with. That’s the best I got, because we were awful.”
The Clippers flew to Milwaukee on Wednesday and practiced Thursday, marking the first time Leonard and George got to practice together as a pair with the rest of the starters.
But the two of them struggled like the rest of their teammates.
Leonard had 17 points on five-for-14 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and five turnovers.
George had 13 points on five-for-12 shooting, seven rebounds and five turnovers.
When George was told what his other teammates said about how the Bucks had whipped up on the Clippers, he could only agree.
“That’s a fair assessment. They came out and kicked our ass,” George said. “There’s nothing else to say about it.”