As the Clippers left the bench inside Staples Center on Christmas night and turned left down the tunnel toward their locker room, coach Doc Rivers could sense that the easygoing JaMychal Green was frustrated by his limited amount of playing time against the Lakers.
Rivers approached Green in the hallway and explained why he had reinserted Paul George into the game late in the second quarter rather than use Green in what had been his rotation minutes.
The two easily got past that because Rivers apologized and Green played a pivotal part when he did get his opportunity to perform in the third quarter as the Clippers erased a 15-point deficit.
“We were going to play him in the first half to be honest and PG, I wanted to get him back in earlier, so I just went away from it,” Rivers said Wednesday night after the Clippers pulled out a 111-106 win. “In retrospect, it was a terrible decision. I should have played him in the first half because he was terrific for us.”
When asked to share his thoughts about Rivers being open to communicate with his players, the mild-mannered Green simply smiled.
“I just roll with it,” Green said. “It’s all good.”
Green entered the game for the first time with 3 minutes 22 seconds left in the third quarter, replacing George.
His three-pointer cut the Clippers’ deficit to three as they rallied for an 86-86 tie by the end of the third.
In Green’s second game back after missing seven because of a bruised tailbone, he played just 6:33 and made only one of four shots from the field, but he also had two rebounds and three assists.
“I just try to stay ready by staying in the gym,” Green said. “While I was hurt, I made sure I was getting shots up. I tried to run on the elliptical and get my condition in so when I came back I wouldn’t have that long to get in rhythm.”
Rivers admitted Green’s recent return was a factor in his playing time.
“It’s why I was hesitant with him because he had only played one game back and so we went back and forth, but I really messed the rotations back up when I put PG back in that early,” Rivers said. “That would have been JaMychal’s minutes and I just thought I needed to get PG in and I needed to get Kawhi [Leonard] out. In retrospect, I just should have stayed with the rotation that we usually stay with.”
Clippers have top defenders
The Clippers have so many top-notch defenders that they don’t have to overuse George and Leonard on the opponents’ best players.
That showed against the Lakers, when the Clippers were able to put Patrick Beverley and Maurice Harkless as well as George and Leonard on LeBron James for different stretches of the game. Beverley forced a game-clinching turnover in the final seconds.
“We just got waves of defenders,” George said. “And our smallest guy” —6-foot-1 Beverley — “tonight got the biggest stop of the game. It just says a lot. We can go into switching and go into multiple guys guarding different personnel. It’s a luxury, a luxury to have. It saves energy on guys like Kawhi, myself, Lou [Williams], that we just can switch and move around. … We are all out there to help each other.”