Doc Rivers shouts a a referee during in game against Golden State in February at Staples Center/AP file photo by Danny Moloshok
When the Clippers looked good in taking a 2-0 lead over Portland with victories in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, the word “sweep” became the first-round series buzz word. Considering the Clippers were 24 games over .500 (53-29) during the regular while Portland was just six (44-38), it was understandable.
When the series shifted to Moda Center in Portland, the Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers in Game 3 with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul still playing, and they were leading the Clippers in Game 4 ahead of Paul’s injury in the third quarter and Griffin’s in the fourth on their way to tying the series 2-2.
Rivers gives the Trail Blazers a tip-of-the-cap for playing better than many might have thought they would.
“I think they have played wonderfully,” said Rivers, whose team lost Game 5 on Wednesday at Staples Center with Paul and Griffin on the shelf to fall behind 3-2. “I think they have played better defense than they did in the regular season, for sure. Offensively, they really haven’t played great, but they haven’t had to. We haven’t played great offense, but a lot of that is because of their defense, so you have to give them credit.”
Portland allowed 104.3 points during the season, 20th in the NBA. Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts intimated it’s been about focus.
“I think everybody’s really locked in,” he said before Game 6 at Moda Center. “We’re more consistent. We haven’t had a lot of areas where for two, three, four minutes we had a lot of letdowns.”