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Doc Rivers, Clippers

Why the Clippers are making a huge mistake keeping Doc Rivers

The Los Angeles Clippers shockingly got bounced in the second round of the 2020 playoffs by the Denver Nuggets after taking a 3-1 series lead, and head coach Doc Rivers is one of the main reasons why the club flamed out.

Rivers, who has been with the Clippers since 2013, has never guided the franchise past the second round. He’s also blown two 3-1 series leads, with the first collapse taking place in 2015 against the Houston Rockets during the Lob City era of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Clippers are expected to bring Rivers back next season. While the Chicago native is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the NBA and is able to connect with players since he used to play in the league, the Clippers are making a huge mistake by bringing Rivers back for the 2020-21 season.

First, let’s start off by saying the Clippers players deserve the most blame for the team’s epic collapse against the Nuggets. Marcus Morris essentially woke the Nuggets up by talking smack to Paul Millsap in Game 5. The series changed after the mini scuffle, as Millsap turned back the clock and started playing like the Millsap we used to see on the Atlanta Hawks when he was an All-Star.

Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George also wet the bed in Game 7. Neither guy scored in the fourth quarter, and George played so bad he hit the top of the backboard on one of his 3-point attempts from the corner. There’s nothing Rivers could have done to make Leonard and George play better. The All-Stars just choked under pressure and they have no one to blame but themselves.

However, some of the rotations Doc Rivers was using in the Nuggets series were awful. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell got exposed on defense, as Nuggets stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic searched them out in the pick-and-roll game and scored on seemingly every possession Williams and Harrell were guarding it.

Despite seeing this trend, though, Rivers kept playing Williams and Harrell heavy minutes down the stretch. Harrell had a negative plus-minus in Games 2-7, while Williams shot a woeful 14.8 percent from beyond the arc in the seven-game series. Sure, both guys have Sixth Man of the Year trophies on their belts and were big reasons why the Clippers were such an elite team during the regular season.

However, the playoffs are all about matchups and the Murray-Jokic pick-and-roll wasn’t a good one for Williams and Harrell. Plus, Williams and Harrell played too much buddy ball with each other instead of moving the ball on offense and neither guy can impact the game if they aren’t scoring, which was the case against the Nuggets.

Rivers should have recognized that Williams and Harrell couldn’t stop Murray and Jokic early on and switched up his defensive coverages. That’s what good coaches do. They make adjustments and put their players in positions to be successful.

It was mind-blowing to see Rivers get outcoached by Michael Malone, especially when you consider Doc has coached so many playoff games and won the 2008 title with the Boston Celtics.

One of the reasons Leonard supposedly signed with the Clippers was to play for Rivers. If that is true, then it does make sense for Los Angeles to keep Rivers so Leonard doesn’t get upset.

However, it’s worth mentioning that Leonard’s trainer, Clint Parks, went off on Rivers during the Nuggets series for his putrid coaching job. Below are just some of the tweets Parks had about Rivers:

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers have a very strong relationship. The energetic owner believes Rivers is the guy who will bring the franchise its first-ever title, even though the film has shown that Doc may not have what it takes. He couldn’t win with Paul, Griffin and Jordan, and his first season with Leonard and George leading the way didn’t net the results fans expected.

The Clippers need to be bold this offseason. Firing Rivers and hiring a coach who is good at in-game adjustments would be the first step to fixing the team’s issues.