By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — Someone pointed out to coach Doc Rivers on Saturday that the Clippers have never won a playoff series after trailing 2-1, the very deficit Rivers’ team now faces against the Thunder.
“Well,” Rivers responded, “we haven’t been in a lot of playoffs.”
Which is a good thing.
And a problem.
The Clippers who have already gone where most franchise ancestors never did during years of becoming very familiar with the lottery format — OK, during decades of becoming very familiar — can easily dismiss most postseason historical benchmarks. But at the same time they cannot avoid the introspection that the lack of previous playoff experience together has contributed to needing a win Sunday at Staples Center to avoid stepping to the brink of elimination.
“That’s the urgency you have to play with in the playoffs and, quite honestly, I think we’ve been in and out in that,” Rivers said at the team’s practice facility. “That’s right now the lessons we’re learning. You can still keep getting better, as I said all through the playoffs. That’s why you don’t panic. You just keep getting better and you keep pushing. I do think that’s the one advantage Oklahoma has had on us in this series. They have several guys that have been all the way to the Finals and they get it. They get the urgency of every single possession and we’ve been in and out in that, throughout the playoffs. For us to keep going, we have to get that every-possession urgency defensively and even offensively. We scored 112 [in Game 3], but we took off 15 possessions where we were running it but we didn’t run it crisply, we didn’t get to the right spots. We took shortcuts. Those are the things you just can’t do. I think our guys are quickly understanding that. I thought last night that point alone was beaten into us.”
Hammered into the Clippers by the Thunder showing composure down the stretch in a close game on the road, whacked into the Clippers by committing six turnovers and scoring 112 points and still losing, thumped into the Clippers by their coach’s words the next day as part of the preparation for Game 5 on Sunday.
“If we did it 100 percent of the time then I would say we don’t need to get better, we’re not learning anymore,” Blake Griffin said. “But, yeah, we have lapses, especially here and there. It’s something that we’re still working on.”
With the understanding, of course, that they need to play with more focus very soon or they will have all summer to work on the problem.
“There’s growth with every team,” Rivers said. “Miami will grow in the playoffs. I’ve said that all year and I think people don’t really get that. You grow during the playoffs. You learn. You get beat and you learn and you get better or you go home. It’s one of those two things. That’s part of the process and you have to be willing to take it, understand it, process it and then move on.”
Or move forward. Then the Clippers would have another postseason benchmark.