Doc Rivers stepped to the podium a few minutes after his Los Angeles Clippers survived another road game against the defending champions, a clutch performance that set up a Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs in what has easily been the series of the first round.
“This series should go seven,” Rivers said. “It seems right.”
The Clippers host the Spurs on Saturday night, the undercard for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas on a spectacular sports day that also includes the Kentucky Derby and the NHL playoffs.
It’s been a terrific series between the Spurs and Clippers, with each team winning on the road twice and the Spurs outscoring the Clippers 615-605 over the course of the first six games.
With five championships, including the vanquishing of LeBron James and the Miami Heat last year, the Spurs’ legacy is cemented. A loss on Saturday night wouldn’t dent the sterling resumes of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
“We understand the pressure that’s there and we understand the magnitude of the game,” Duncan said. “We understand that we can play better than we did (in Game 6). Hopefully we will clean a whole lot of that up and play a much better game in this short turnaround. I know we are capable of it. We will be ready for it.”
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers have much more to lose. For all their individual accolades, the two stars have yet to lift the Clippers past the second round of the playoffs. To knock the champions out on their home floor would be a big step toward putting playoff failures of the past behind them.
The Clippers have responded emphatically each time the Spurs appeared to take control of the series, including with a 27-point victory at home in Game 3. The Clippers won Game 4.
“They are a great team, in every sense of the word,” Griffin said. “I don’t think you can look at a team over the past 20 years or so that has been better. Duncan is a great player and one of the best players of all time. They have been in this situation. They went into a Game 7 with Dallas last year in the first round and they ended up winning the whole thing. They have been in this situation and they know not to panic.”
A look at the game:
Spurs at Clippers, series tied 3-3, TNT, 8 p.m. EDT
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said on Friday that reserve forward Glen Davis would be listed as questionable with a sprained ankle.
His availability will be an important development for the Clippers, who have struggled all series and all season to get any production off their bench. If Davis can’t go, that puts more pressure on seldom-used reserves like Hedo Turkoglu and Spencer Hawes to give some sort of production when Griffin and DeAndre Jordan need a breather.
Rivers said if Davis can’t play, the Clippers may be forced to play a smaller lineup more often, which could play into San Antonio’s hands.
The Clippers are also concerned about their 3-point shooting. They’re shooting just 29 percent through six games and went 4 for 18 in Game 6, with Spurs perimeter defenders Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green allowing very few clean looks.
“The Spurs have done a terrific job through the series of trying to run us off” the 3-point line, Rivers said. “They’ve made that focal point. We have too, but you couldn’t tell (in Game 6). We did miss some wide open ones as well. We would like to get more 3s. There’s no doubt about that.”
The Spurs will likely continue to ride Duncan and Leonard while hoping Patty Mills can continue to shoot well while Tony Parker tries to play through injuries.
“We’ve been playing those kinds of games so it won’t be the first seventh game we’ve played,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. “We also won in the first round in seven games last year. We even had a higher seed and we still went to a Game 7. Nobody said it was going to be easy.
“We expected it to be hard and now it’s on us to either take the game or not.”
AP freelance writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.
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