Finally Having A Practice, Clippers Continue To Pursue Consistency
LOS ANGELES — At long last, a day to practice. That’s what the L.A. Clippers finally got to do on a Tuesday morning in late March.
The team had played four sets of back-to-backs (with one more remaining in the month), and just wrapped up one of the hardest stretches of the entire season consisting of eight games in 12 days. The final game was the most disappointing as the team blew an 18-point fourth quarter lead and fell to the Sacramento Kings at home.
“Oh, that was a hard loss,” reiterated head coach Doc Rivers at Tuesday’s practice. “But again, I’ve had a lot of them. I’ve had a lot of great wins and i’ve had a lot of bad losses, but as far as regular season losses, that ranks up there as one of the top [worst]. Still doesn’t matter one way or another, it's a game you should’ve won and we didn’t win. It was the perfect storm by them and we created a lot of the storm.”
For the first time in a month, the Clippers have more than a day off in between games, and they also had their first practice in exactly one month as well. Rivers, who had been looking forward to getting his guys together for a chance to regroup and go over the basics, couldn’t even remember the last time his team had a practice.
“I actually don’t recall,” said Rivers. “We were talking about it today. One of my coaches asked me, ‘When’s the last time we practiced?’ and I said ‘I literally don’t recall.’ I knew when March started, we were not going to have a practice so I said ‘probably before March would be my guess.’
Following this day without a game, the team will play their final back-to-back of the season on Wednesday and Thursday, leaving them with five April contests in a span of 13 days. It doesn’t seem like much time to get their act together, but the team believes it’s more than enough time to get back on track and ready for the postseason.
The team’s floor general Chris Paul re-watched the collapse against the Kings the other night, and knows these seven games are key towards building the consistency this team needs to make some noise past the regular season.
“We’ve got to work on execution offensively and defensively,” said Paul. “You hate that it’s this late in the season, but we’re one of those teams that can get it right. We’ve just got to build that trust. If we can build that trust on the offensive end, but especially on the defensive end where we need it the most, then we’ll be okay.”
Rivers has been preaching consistency to this group for what seems like an eternity and continues to do so with just seven games remaining to build on.
“I think this is the most talented group we’ve had and I believe that,” Rivers confidently said. “We’ve shown that in spurts, but we just haven’t been consistent with it. From a coaching perspective, it’s great that our guys think that. You know how I am, I probably believe more than my team all the time because that’s just the way a coach should be, but you can’t lean on that. You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to practice it every day and we’ve shown inconsistencies that I don’t like.”
So, how does Rivers think the Clippers get back to playing consistently considering there are just seven opportunities to do so?
“Well, you can get it back by doing it and having focus. I think part of our’s is focus and humility. I just felt before the Utah game we knew we were locked in and ready, and I wasn’t so sure going into the Sacramento game and that’s the mindset. I’m not worried about us when we play in the playoffs [in terms of] being ready and playing hard, but I still am concerned about consistency.”
This Clippers’ team is a confident bunch, but even they know they can’t continue riding this roller coaster of a season if they hope to make a lengthy playoff push.
“We’ve got to finish out games, we can’t take any opponents lightly,” said DeAndre Jordan before practice. “This is something that’s more mental, I feel like. It’s something that we should be doing, something that is obviously drilled into us, but we’ve just got to respond and do it.
“If not, it’s going to be an early, quick exit for us in the postseason. We’ve just really got to lock in more and finish out games the entire 48 minutes.”
Coach Doc Rivers said guard J.J. Redick, who turned his ankle stepping on a basketball during Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz, would not participate in Tuesday’s practice, but that he would try to get some shots up.
“J.J. is good, he’s going to shoot today. He won’t practice today, I know that. And I’m not even sure about tomorrow yet, but i know he wanted to try to shoot. I didn’t see him out on the floor yet.”
His status for Wednesday will likely determined sometime before the game during morning shootaround or pre-game warm-ups.