As the Clips get set for Game 6 in L.A., Doc Rivers isn't sure what to expect from his team or the fans.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers didn’t take the day off Monday, but his players did.
"I just felt like they needed to breathe," Rivers said in a conference call with reporters. "They’ve been inundated with this. They’ve had no time with their families. I just think they need time."
One day before the Clippers and Warriors resume their best-of-7 series Tuesday night at Staples Center starting at 7 p.m. PT on Prime Ticket, Rivers still isn’t sure what to expect, either from his team or the fans.
With the controversy swirling around racist comments allegedly made by team owner Donald Sterling, Rivers said he’s hoping the Clippers can recover from their Game 4 loss, which evened the series at two games each.
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But he conceded he’s not sure if feelings with soothe over time.
"After the game (Sunday), I was thinking, ‘Wow, we’ve got 48 more hours,’ but I’m not sure now," he said. "I don’t know if it’s gotten worse because there’s more thought. I just don’t know."
Rivers said he told his players that the best way to keep the issue of race front and center is to win. The Clippers still hold home-court advantage against the Warriors, with a possible Game 7 also at Staples.
"One of the things I told them is, the way to keep this alive is by continuing to win," he said. "If you want to make a statement, that’s it. The more we win, the more this stays alive. That’s what we’re going to continue to try to do."
At the same time, however, he knows many of his players are torn between their pursuit of an NBA title and their feelings of anger over what has taken place regarding alleged remarks by Sterling.
"With our players, we’ve all decided this is the right course," he said. "But that doesn’t mean we still don’t wrestle with it every day and every moment. That’s the distraction of this.
There’s so many emotions in this. This is a very emotional subject
-- Doc Rivers
"It’s very difficult to commit to something when there’s moments you’re not sure if what you’re committing to is the right thing. That’s the issue, if you want to cut to the chase. For our players, that’s the issue."
After playing strong defensively for most of the first three games, the Clippers seemed to lack focus, giving up 27 fast-break points and giving up too many easy layups.
Asked if his team appeared distracted by the Sterling controversy, Rivers said, "When I look at our tape, 70 percent of our defensive possessions were mistakes, game-plan mistakes. That’s focus. I think a lot of it, we can be better, and we have to be.
"But I can never answer how much of it had to do with that. It had an impact, there’s no doubt."
Rivers said he’s hopeful the team continues to receive strong fan support. The Clippers sold out every home game this season and expect another sellout Tuesday.
Asked if he thinks fans will, or should, protest, Rivers said he wasn’t sure. But he hopes the team continues to be cheered.
"Fans are in a dilemma as well," he said. "We want them to cheer for their players and their team because it’s still their players and their team, and it will be their players and their team.
It’s very difficult to commit to something when there’s moments you’re not sure if what you’re committing to is the right thing.
-- Doc Rivers
"What I get from fans that I’ve heard from (is) that’s how they feel. ‘This is my team. These are my players that I’m cheering for, and that’s not going to change.’ I hope that continues."
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said in a radio interview that if he were a Clippers fan, he would not attend the game. He said the game should be played in an empty arena.
"I think Mark has a right to his opinion," Rivers said. "I don’t think there’s a wrong opinion here. If this was a normal thing, I would say Mark is trying to get no fans to come because he wants to win this game. That has nothing to do with Mark’s comments. I think he’s speaking from his heart and his emotion."
Rivers also said it’s possible that a player, perhaps Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, will address the crowd before the game.
"That’s still being discussed," he said. "We’re going to continue to discuss it. I don’t know which way we’ll go with that. We don’t know the right answer.
The more we win, the more this stays alive. That’s what we’re going to continue to try to do.
-- Doc Rivers
"I can tell you this: We want to do right. We want to make the right decisions here. We’re doing our very best to try to do that. If we feel like that is something that will help our fans, then it will be done. If we feel like it’s something they don’t need, then we won’t do it."
But his primary concern, he said, is getting his players focused on the task at hand — beating the Warriors and moving on in the NBA playoffs.
They weren’t focused in Game 4. That much was obvious.
"As far as getting my players back, it wasn’t like they went anywhere," he said. "They were there. They were all over, that’s the problem. It’s very difficult because there’s so many emotions in this. This is a very emotional subject."