ORLANDO — He talked about how the "basketball gods punished" his team, about how the Clippers were "very casual in our approach" to the game against the Orlando Magic and about how their steadfast belief that offense will cure all is "fool's gold."
The Clippers fell behind by 19 points in the third quarter, but rallied to take a five-point lead in the fourth by finally playing some defense.
Then those basketball gods Rivers spoke of must have awoken, slowing the Clippers down in the game's most crucial moments, limiting them to 16 points in the fourth quarter after they scored 32 in the third.
"To me it's like the basketball gods said: 'If you don't play hard all game, I'm not rewarding you. You're not winning this game,'" Rivers said. "That's how it almost felt. It was like the basketball gods punished us tonight for not being ready to play all game."
And the Clippers were not ready from the start, falling behind by 15 at halftime, and by 19 a little more than a minute into the third period.
"I thought we were very casual in our approach tonight, and that's on me," Rivers said. "I always got to get them ready, and I didn't. Obviously, coming out of halftime we did [get ready] and we were a different basketball team."
The Clippers were down 61-42 when they went on a 32-11 run to close out the third quarter and take a 74-72 lead.
But behind former USC star Nikola Vucevic's 30 points and 21 rebounds, the Magic responded in a big way.
Blake Griffin (23 points, 13 rebounds) scored with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter to give the Clippers an 89-88 lead. But the Clippers were not the best team in the clutch.
Former UCLA star Arron Affalo made a jumper and Chris Paul (18 points, 10 assists) missed a three-point shot.
Vucevic made a jumper for a 92-89 Magic lead.
Then Paul turned the ball over with a pass that Griffin couldn't handle.
Jordan made the first of two free throws to pull the Clippers to within 92-90 with 25.6 seconds left. But that was the last point the Clippers would score.
Vucevic closed out the game with six consecutive free throws in the final 23.3 seconds.
And with that, the Clippers lost the opener of a three-game trip that continues in Miami on Thursday night.
And the NBA's highest-scoring team, which came into Orlando averaging 119 points per game, failed to reach 100 points for the first time all season.
"We win games and we're scoring 100 and whatever points, that's always fool's gold," Rivers said. "Offense is always fool's gold. You got to defend to win."