Doc Rivers had a revelation in Game 6 one whichsaved the the Los Angeles Clippers' postseason.
First, let's backtrack to Tuesday.Rivers tried to make up for Blake Griffin's absence in Game 5 against the Jazz by starting Marreese Speights, butthe Clippers were no match for Utah's superior traditional lineups, which dominated Los Angeles on both ends of the court.
Rather than try to run it back on Friday with the season on the line, though, Rivers made the one adjustment that's sweeping the NBA.
Going small is a tactical shift we've seen work wonders for the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics this postseason, and it'seasily L.A.'s best strategy without Griffin. So in Game 6, Austin Rivers joined Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and DeAndre Jordan in the Clippers' top lineup three wings spread around the pick-and-roll.
And to the elder Rivers' credit, he stuck with his small lineup no matter what the Jazz threw at him.
There was no panic from a team we've grown accustomed to watching flounder with their backs against the wall. Yes, Riversused Speights to sneak some rest for his starters. He also used the reserve big man as a center in the fourth quarter with Paul, Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford while perfectly rotating players in based on the Jazz's substitutions and his own guys' fatigue.
It was the best coaching effort we've seen from Doc since he joined the Clippers, andLos Angeles claimed a 98-93 win.
Thoughwithout Chris Paul, the shiftwould have been for naught.
You can make all the tactical adjustments you want. You still need a superstar to execute the game plan.
Few are better than Paul, who was at the top of his game on Friday. He had 29 points and eight assistsas he flashed his typical preternatural feel for the game.
When Crawford got hot, the ball was in his hands before he knew to look for a pass. When the Jazz played off of the Clippers' point guard instead, Paul rocked them to sleep with an array of pull-up jumpers and drives to the rim. When Los Angeles had a chance to put an exclamation point on the whole thing, there was Paul, finding Jordan rolling to the rim for an emphatic dunk that silenced the Utah crowd.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Clippers elimination game without a bit of drama. Paul committed his typical high-tension, turnover-prone act in the closing minutes, giving Utahhope. After the game, he called his play "boneheaded," promising he'd watch the film and learn from his mistakes.
But in the end, Los Angeles finally caught a break and held off the Jazz. Thanks to Paul and Rivers, the Clippers can answer that poor reporter. They will be coming back to Staples Center for a Game 7. And if they play like they did on Friday night, Los Angeles will be on its way to a second-round date with the Warriors, despite all the adversity they've faced in just the first round so far.