Doc Rivers ejected, rips Clippers for angering basketball gods in Nets loss
Clippers coach says team lost respect for the game
BROOKLYN, New York -- It's hard to know who Doc Rivers was more upset at Wednesday: referee Ken Mauer or his own team. The Los Angeles Clippers coach was ejected with 18.6 seconds left in the first overtime of their 127-122 double-OT loss to the Brooklyn Nets, drawing a second technical foul for arguing about the first one, which was called by Mauer when Rivers appeared to be yelling at referee Lauren Holtkamp.
Afterward, he ripped the Clips for relaxing prematurely with an 18-point lead in the second half, allowing Brooklyn to get back in the game.
Rivers was so mad with Mauer that he had to be restrained on the court with his team down by two points in a crucial moment. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and assistant coach Sam Cassell both held him back as he screamed at the official.
"It was an awful tech," Rivers said. "Honestly, I think you guys know why the tech was called. The official who had nothing to do with the play thought I was yelling at Lauren, and I wasn't. Actually, she said, 'You're right' or whatever, 'let's walk back.' We were talking. We weren't even arguing. So it was the damnedest tech to give at that time, and you know what the league's gonna do. They're going to fall back on 'He crossed half court.' You'll see tomorrow, that's what they're going to say, and we're going to all know that that's not the real reason."
When it came to his team, Rivers sounded more disappointed than angry. It bothered Rivers that Los Angeles let Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick, who finished with a career-high 38 points on 14-for-38 shooting, plus 14 rebounds, get to his right hand repeatedly. It bugged Rivers that the Clippers gave up straight-line drives to the basket and easy layups off back-cuts. He thought the basketball gods punished them.
"We lost our respect for the game," Rivers said. "I thought we lost our humility. I thought we were playing great, we got up, we got cool, we stopped moving the ball, we went showtime, and I think when that happens you deserve to lose the game. I really do. I think champions have humility throughout the game, and I thought we lost that as a group. We started turning the ball over, we stopped defending as hard because we were up. We were more concerned about getting the ball back so we could try to go score."
The loss was the Clippers' third in a row after starting the season with 14 wins in 16 games. They fell to the Detroit Pistons 108-97 last Friday and the Indiana Pacers 91-70 on Sunday. Star forward Blake Griffin sat out for rest in Brooklyn, but that's hardly an excuse against a Nets team without guard Jeremy Lin.
"Tonight we got 'good' all of a sudden," Rivers said. "We were walking around like we've done something. And that bothers me because we've done crap. Look, we haven't done crap. And for us to walk around against a team, to me, that is playing their hearts out every night to just win one game, for us to walk around like we've done something, it bothers me on a basketball level. And so I didn't like it. I didn't want us to lose. But I'm all right with it, honestly, because I think you deserve it when you do that."
Clippers guard Austin Rivers sounded a lot like his father, saying the team "got real cool" and needed to start showing every opponent respect. Without referencing Kilpatrick specifically, he said, "You give somebody hope, they turn into a whole different player. I'm telling you, man. You give somebody confidence they can be a whole different person."
It's only three games, but suddenly Los Angeles seems like a whole different team than the one cruising along at the start of the season, connected defensively in a way that it has never been since Chris Paul joined Griffin and Jordan. The discipline has disappeared.
"We were saying to the media a week ago, We're the best team in the NBA, we're the best team in the NBA, we feel like this is our year," Austin Rivers said. "We've dropped three in the row to teams that are nowhere near as good as us. You know what I mean? They outplayed us.
"You gotta win these games, man," he added. "Especially if you're in the West. We know we're going to the playoffs, you know what I mean? That's not what we're playing for -- everybody knows we're going to the playoffs. We're trying to be first, second seed. Like, we don't want Game 7 to be on the road. That's what we're fighting for. We don't want to look back at the end of the year and be like, Oh, man, you know what, we were a game away -- that Brooklyn game. That's the type of shit that losing teams do."
It wasn't all doom and gloom inside the locker room. Austin said that it's a good thing, at least, that the Clippers are dealing with this in November, rather than when the playoffs are approaching. Jamal Crawford said that they don't want to be peaking right now, and they just need to get a victory to get the bad taste out of their mouths. No one, however, argued with the coach's assessment.
"Listen, if you play hard and you play the right way, I believe in the basketball gods rewarding you," J.J. Redick said. "If you f-- around with the game, yeah, you're going to get punished at some point."
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