After road-trip struggles, Clippers getting back on track defensively

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


Much had been made of the improving defense of the L.A. Clippers. Then the Clippers hit the road for five games beginning March 15 at San Antonio and allowed an average of 110 points while going 1-4 against the Spurs, Houston (the win), Memphis, New Orleans and Golden State.

The Clippers (46-27) have done well to right that ship over the past three games, allowing an average of just 91.3 points in victories over Portland, Denver and Boston.

Backup guard Austin Rivers led the Clippers with 16 points in Monday’s 114-90 rout of Boston at Staples Center. After the game, he said it about as well as it can be said.

“After that last road trip where we dropped a couple of games, we came home and we knew we had to get our defense right,” he said. “You can see how much that leads to better offense as well, just us defending.

“It has to be something that we do consistently and something that is a part of our identity in order for us to compete and beat the teams like the Spurs, Warriors and (Oklahoma City) Thunder in the playoffs.”

The leader of the pack has been DeAndre Jordan, who had three more blocked shots Monday after coming through with six the day before during a 105-90 win over Denver. Keep in mind that Jordan and the rest of the starters did not play in the fourth quarter of either game.

“My job is to play with defensive energy for this team, so any time I can do that it becomes contagious for the rest of the guys,” Jordan said. “We have a lot of energy guys, so they respond well when we pick up the intensity.”

Coach Doc Rivers was talking about Jordan’s defensive presence after Monday’s victory and recalled a conversation he had a a day earlier with Denver coach Mike Malone.

“Mike Malone was just telling me, ‘It’s amazing how many times guys just stop driving because he’s around, which you don’t see reflected in the stats,’” Doc Rivers said. “With his energy, his activity, and his voice – he is the loudest player on our team with his talk – he has taken another step defensively this year and he has been good for us.”

VIDEO: Check out this Isaiah Thomas block of Chris Paul shot

Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics is listed at 5-foot-9, but the little guy can really get high in the air when he must. That was evident on this play during Monday’s game against the Clippers at Staples Center. The Clippers won 114-90, but Thomas got the last laugh on Chris Paul in this instance:

Five things to take from Clippers’ 114-90 victory over Celtics

DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers scores two of his 15 points on this dunk during the first half of the Clippers’ 114-90 victory over the Boston Celtics/AP photo by Mark J. Terrill


Doc Rivers and his players talked quite a bit about the defense the team played in this victory. The Celtics shot just 34.8 percent from the field and much of that was because of that defense. Boston’s Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 24 points, but he shot just 5 of 14 as 12 of his points came from the free-throw line.

– The starters did not have to play in the fourth quarter for the second consecutive game, thanks to a 22-point lead (92-70) after three quarters that quickly grew to 25 at the outset of the fourth. Rivers liked that. “It’s huge, it’s huge,” he said.

Paul Pierce was off to a fine start, scoring eight points on 4 of 6 shooting, when he went down with w right ankle sprain in the second quarter. Rivers said Pierce will be out for “a little bit. We don’t know how long yet.” Pierce also had three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

– The Clippers’ bench had a solid outing, scoring 67 of the team’s 114 points – more than half. Austin Rivers led the reserves – and the entire team – with 16 points. Jamal Crawford scored 15, Wes Johnson 11 and Jeff Green 10. That’s not to mention that Cole Aldrich had six points on 3 of 3 shooting and also pulled down seven rebounds in just under 14 minutes.

– By the time this night was over, it became apparent that there is a chance the Clippers will not be playing Memphis in the first round, as most are expecting. That’s because the Grizzlies lost at home to San Antonio and Portland defeated Sacramento. Memphis is in fifth-place in the Western Conference standings and would place the fourth-place Clippers if the standings don’t change. But the sixth-place Trail Blazers are now just 2 1/2 games behind the Grizzlies. Memphis has eight games remaining, Portland seven. If those two teams switch spots, the Clippers would play the Trail Blazers in the first round. There is little chance the Clippers won’t finish fourth.

Chris Paul doesn’t mind 48 minutes, he just hates to lose

Chris Paul is being defended by Isaiah Thomas of the Celtics in Wednesday’s game/AP photo by Charles Krupa


Chris Paul played 48 of a possible 53 minutes in the Clippers’ 139-134 overtime loss at Boston on Wednesday. Paul played more than anyone else on either team and he led the  Clippers with 35 points on 13 of 21 shooting, 13 assists, five rebounds, three steals and just two turnovers.

He was tired.

“Yeah, somewhat, but after a while you’re just like, ‘Man, win the game,’ ” he said. “There ain’t no point playing all these minutes if you don’t win. So, it is what it is.”

The Clippers finished the road trip 3-1 and will take a record of 35-17 into the All-Star break. They resume play Feb. 18 when they play host to San Antonio (45-8) at Staples Center. The Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference, the Spurs are second.


Doc Rivers recalls when he took his Celtics to Rome for training camp

Doc Rivers/Photo by Associated Press


The Clippers left Wednesday morning for China, where they will play the Charlotte Hornets in exhibition games Oct. 10 and Oct. 14. Coach Doc Rivers this week recalled when he took his Boston Celtics to Rome for training camp for the 2007-08 season, which ended with the Celtics winning the NBA title.

“There were so many things in Rome, that we had great practices,” Rivers said. “But going to the Vatican, going to the Coliseum, I mean, it was like warrior stuff. It was like, you couldn’t have scripted a more perfect place for a team that had championship aspirations to go to.”

Doc Rivers gets a kick out of being named conference ‘Coach of the Month’

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers/Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press


Doc Rivers on Thursday was named Coach of the Month for the Western Conference by the NBA. The Clippers went 7-0 during the month of April.

Rivers was kind of funny when asked about the award Thursday at practice as his team prepares for its first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 1 is Sunday at Staples Center.

“I didn’t even know they had a ‘Coach of the Month’ for the last month; it’s almost silly,” he said, alluding to the idea that it was only half a month because the regular season ended Wednesday in the NBA. “I was shocked, number one. Number two, I think usually they give you this plaque and I think Brad and I are going to saw it in half because that’s the way it should look.

“But it’s always nice when you win anything and I’m sure Brad feels the same way.”

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. He led the Celtics to a 7-1 record in April.