Doc Rivers would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.
The Los Angeles Clippers new head coach had his debut spoiled by the reserves of crosstown rival Los Angeles Lakers, who pulled out a 116-103 victory in both team’s season opener. The fourth quarter was dominated by the Lakers bench, who scored an eye-popping 76 points in the game, the most for L.A. since March of 1985.
“Mike (D’Antoni) did a great thing: He didn’t bring his starters back in,” Rivers said of the Lakers head coach, who kept Steve Nash and Pau Gasol seated for the the entire fourth quarter. ”There was a point where I was thinking: “Please bring them back in.”’
The story of Lakers like Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar, and Jodie Meeks leading the team to victory over the defending division champs was stunning, even if it is only the first game. With Kobe Bryant expected to be sidelined at least until January with an Achilles injury and Dwight Howard signing as a free agent with the Houston Rockets, the Lakers were supposed to be lead by the veteran point guard Steve Nash in the season’s early going. Instead, Jordan Farmer got most of the minutes at point guard, finishing with 15 points and six assists to Nash’s line of 3 points and five assists.
“Man, that was fun,” said Henry, who signed with the Lakers in the offseason and lead the team in scoring with 22 points. “We just want to prove everybody wrong.”
Most everybody was wrong about last night. Lead by All-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are expected to be among the top teams in the Western Conference this season. But last night the Clippers looked out-of-sync on offense and sloppy on defense.
“Calls are different, some schemes are different — at the same time, it’s defense,” Griffin said of Doc Rivers new system and defensive philosophy. “We can make up for some mistakes with defense and hustling. We can’t use the excuse of ‘these are new schemes.’ It’s on us. It’s on all the players.”
Gasol looked good in the season opener for the Lakers, who improved to an NBA-best 42-24 on opening night. Gasol finished with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Clippers may have been disappointed with the result in their coach’s debut but they’ll have time to figure things out over the course of the NBA’s long season.
“Everything they did was harder than us and more physical than us,” Rivers said of the Lakers. “They destroyed us on the glass and destroyed us in turnovers. So it was a good lesson for us.”