Austin Rivers had his left eye nearly shut from an errant elbow from Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu in Saturday’s Game 6 at Moda Center in Portland. Rivers took 11 stitches/AP photo by Craig Mitchelldyer
Coach Terry Stotts’ Portland Trail Blazers had just eliminated the Clippers with a 106-103 victory in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Friday at Moda Center. Portland won 4-2.
The first question him came from a reporter who wanted to know what Stotts thought about the Clippers’ heart. After all, not only were the Clippers without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – their two best players – Austin Rivers took an elbow to his left eye in the first quarter. Rivers took 11 stitches, came back and finished with 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
Indeed, Stotts was impressed.
“Well, I’m glad you brought that up,” Stotts said. “I want to congratulate the Clippers and Doc (Rivers). Obviously, the injuries that they had was a setback, but they really competed hard.”
Stotts said he was disappointed that Paul and Griffin didn’t get to finish the series, both of them going down in Game 4.
“Obviously, they had championship aspirations and they weren’t playing at full strength, so I really admire what they were able to do,” he said. “We knew they were going to play hard, we knew they were gong to compete and they did, so I’m thrilled with the win. But my hat’s off to them.”
Doc Rivers, who just finished his third season as head coach of the Clippers, won a title with the Boston Celtics in 2008. But he said he has never felt better about a team than he does this one.
“No, I told them, I’ve been around a long time,” he said. “What I loved about this group is they didn’t care. They never looked for an excuse, they never … you know, guys didn’t play. Blake went out, CP (Paul) went out. I mean, they never doubted it. They believed they could do it.
“Obviously, they didn’t. But, man, that team had more heart than any team I’ve ever seen. It was amazing to coach them.”