ORLANDO — Doc Rivers has been in enough of these situations to know that some rousing pregame speech won’t move the needle.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for the Los Angeles Clippers. Win Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of the conference semifinals and it’ll be on to a showdown in the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pushing the right buttons once the game starts is a must. Delivering one of those “Win one for the Gipper” speeches, however, doesn’t appear to be anything Rivers is working on in the lead up to the opening tip.
“I’m going to say let’s go win,” Rivers said before his team’s practice Monday when asked what he’s going to say to his team. “Rah-rah speeches are overrated. They last about three minutes and then you come running out and you’re fired up. And then three minutes later you’ve got to focus on playing basketball. So there’s no like secret speech. That’s for the movies.
“The real thing is you’ve got to have them prepared, and preparation. That’s what we’ll do the next two days, we’ll get them doing what we’ve done to get the leads and we’ll continue to do it. But there’s nothing secret or magical. It’s about playing basketball. Manning up, moving the ball and doing all of the things we can do. Other than that, that’s about it.”
Rivers has experienced the highs and lows of Game 7s in his coaching career, so he understands that each team, each scenario and the dynamics that come with it are unique to a specific series. So it’s hard to draw parallels to use when analyzing the predicament his team finds itself in; the Clippers led this series 3-1 before losing double-digit leads and buckling down the stretch to lose Games 5 and 6.
For a team with plenty of players with playoff seasoning, Rivers said he won’t lean on that experience since this core group is playing in its first postseason together.
They do have the reigning Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard, but Rivers pounced out that his superstar is in the same predicament everyone is right now.
“Kawhi has no experience with this team,” Rivers said. “He’s unshakable. And like with Kawhi, you can’t guarantee that he’s going to play well or not because he’s human, and all players are. But you know the moment won’t be too big. That’s the one thing with him, you just know that. So that’s comforting to know that.”
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