OKC Thunder: Doc Rivers' desperation moves lead to Clippers victory over Thunder

One adjustment kept Los Angeles from facing a virtually insurmountable 3-1 series deficit: Rivers went small.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 11, 2014


photo - From left, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9), Reggie Jackson (15), Los Angeles' Chris Paul (3), Danny Granger (33) and Blake Griffin (32) react at the end of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Clippers won 101-99. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
From left, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9), Reggie Jackson (15), Los Angeles' Chris Paul (3), Danny Granger (33) and Blake Griffin (32) react at the end of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Clippers won 101-99. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers was desperate.

And so the Clippers coach coached like there was no tomorrow.

Did things he had never done. Made decisions he was willing to live with or die by.

But one adjustment kept Los Angeles from facing a virtually insurmountable 3-1 series deficit.

Rivers went small.

After getting abused by the Thunder’s small lineup in Game 3, Rivers made the right read, matched up his men properly and watched his team rally from a 22-point hole before securing a stunning and potentially season-saving 101-99 victory in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon inside Staples Center.

“I don’t think it’s brilliant coaching. That’s called desperate coaching,” Rivers admitted. “You’re just looking for any combination.”

Rivers made his move 53 seconds into the fourth quarter. His team trailed by 15.

He brought in Chris Paul for Glen Davis, putting Paul on the floor with Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger and DeAndre Jordan. Roughly 21/2 minutes later, Rivers went even smaller, replacing Jordan with Blake Griffin and riding that lineup until it turned what should have been an runaway Thunder victory into a deflating defeat.

“We went completely unconventional,” Rivers said. “We went ultra-small...That’s a lineup that I don’t know if we ever used. We were just searching for the group tonight, and that group won the game for us.”

It worked mostly because of Paul’s surprising ability to defend Durant at the high post and disrupt the entire Thunder offense. But with Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Caron Butler, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder got exposed defensively for having just one big man on the floor. It opened the paint more than it had been all night and allowed the Clippers — namely Paul and Collison — to turn the decisive quarter into a layup line.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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