Lakers rain on Clippers’ parade in season opener
Doc Rivers doesn’t need to turn on his GPS just yet.
That Clippers’ championship parade route he talked about plotting Tuesday may not be ready to be taken any time soon, even as a psychological ploy.
Not when your presumed Finals contender can’t navigate the Lakers without Kobe Bryant. Not when your team of All-Stars is beaten largely by a who’s-nobody collection of Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks and Wesley Johnson.
A few hours before the Clippers’ flop of an opener, Rivers had boldly talked about taking the Clippers where no coach had before, about figuring out the smartest way to navigate the streets around Staples Center come June.
You have to envision a championship before you can win it, right?
Rivers had famously used a similar tactic with the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2007. The coach took Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on a duck boat tour through Boston after the trio of stars came together, emulating the title parade route used by the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots.
One year later, the Celtics piled into the same boats after beating the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
These Clippers looked merely waterlogged after a 116-103 defeat against the short-handed Lakers.
Rivers wore the look of someone powerless to stop a sinking ship in his first game on the Clippers’ sideline.
The coach stressed defense, yet his team surrendered triple digits. He wanted smart play but got needless flagrant fouls from Matt Barnes and DeAndre Jordan. He emphasized togetherness yet watched his second unit outscored by a staggering 76-34 margin.
The Clippers also failed to address a few of the shortcomings Rivers pinpointed before the game, struggling to defend the perimeter as the Lakers made 14 three-pointers and giving up too many crowd-pleasing fastbreak points.
“It was everybody,” Rivers said of his team’s defensive breakdowns. “I would love to say it was the bigs, but it really wasn’t a lot of times. It was our guards pulled in at the wrong time, going for steals, gambling, breaking coverage.”
On the plus side, Jordan exhibited flashes of being the defensive menace Rivers envisioned, blocking three shots and twice stripping the ball from Pau Gasol in the first half.
But this performance wasn’t anywhere close to one indicative of a contending team. Rivers will need to coax much more out of his defense and a second unit that was badly outplayed, with only three players scoring.
By contrast, the Lakers gleefully watched a trio of reserves come up big. Henry scored a career-high 22 points, Meeks went for 13 and Johnson hit a big three-pointer.
The Clippers were almost comically bad during a fourth quarter in which they gave up 41 points.
“We relaxed a little bit and I think that starts with me,” point guard Chris Paul said. “I’ve got to get into the ball and stop getting the little nitpicky fouls and stuff like that and try to contain guys.”
None of what happened Tuesday lends itself to plotting a parade route.
“We’ve talked about that,” Rivers said. “But that’s a long way away.”
If this was a sign of things to come, indeed it is.
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