Clippers back to business, working out kinks on defense

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – One thing Doc Rivers won’t do is panic.
One game — and one loss — into the NBA season, Rivers was back to business with the Clippers, ready to forget about their season opener and already looking ahead to the Golden State Warriors tonight at Staples Center.
“Any time you win, it’s good for your confidence,” the Clippers coach said Wednesday before practice. “When you lose, it tests your resolve. I expect us to win every night that we play, and we didn’t win last night, so we’re going to try to win tomorrow night.”
It will take a sharp turnaround after their 116-103 loss to the Lakers, especially on defense. The Clippers gave up 41 fourth-quarter points to the Lakers, who shot 65 percent in the final period. The Lakers also scored 30 second-chance points and had 18 offensive rebounds.
Understandably, defense was the top priority at practice.
“The biggest thing is staying disciplined to our concepts defensively,” guard J.J. Redick said. “Obviously we had a lot of breakdowns. We gave up a lot of points.”
The Warriors will be an even tougher opponent, with guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson providing offensive thrust and deadly outside shooting. The Clips were among the worst teams in the league at defending the three-point shot last season and gave up 14 threes to the Lakers on Tuesday.
The Warriors, who open their season Wednesday night against the Lakers, beat the Clippers three times in four meetings last season and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals.
As tests go, they’re more difficult than the Lakers.
“I’m expecting tests every night,” Rivers said. “I don’t expect Golden State to be more of a test than the Lakers were last night. They made every shot. Golden State is a great shooting team. They’re going to make every shot if they’re open. We just have to be there. We have to run them off shots and force them into contested twos.”
With Curry and Thompson so effective from the outside, the Clippers know their primary test will be contesting three-pointers. Curry led the league with 272 three-point baskets last season.
“It’s got to be a focus to run guys off the line,” Redick said. “Some of our rotations, some of our stuff, got broken down. We’ve got to do a better job, the guards, at the point of the ball, controlling and containing our guy, being into the ball a little bit more.”
Even more so, forward Blake Griffin said the Clippers can improve on the defensive end with better communication. A little talking always helps.
“Trust, communication,” Griffin said. “As long as we get back and communicate and we’re talking out things, you can make up for a lot of mistakes by communicating and playing aggressive. Those are things you can do immediately and not really have to wait for anything to kick in or to get more familiar with the defense.”
Without improvement, however, their home opener at Staples could be a big downer for a team with huge aspirations. But no one is expecting it. There’s no panic, certainly not this early in the season.
“You never want to drop two and a row,” Griffin said. “You want to see how you play after a game like last night. You want to come back and play much better. I think we’ll be ready.”