LOS ANGELES — After a hard-fought season during which the LA Clippers exceeded expectations and took the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors to six games in a gritty first-round series, coach Doc Rivers could only marvel at the heart his team displayed during the 2018-19 campaign.
“I’ve never been more proud of a group of guys in the 20 years that I’ve coached,” Rivers said after his team’s 129-110 season-ending loss Friday to the Warriors at Staples Center. “They were just really fun. As I’ve said before, I’ve never had a group where you wanted to, in the morning, you raced to the car, you raced to practice just because you love being around them. So for me, it was just a pleasure to coach them.”
But the Clippers had no answer for Warriors star Kevin Durant‘s 50 points, with 38 coming in the first half.
“I mean, he’s Kevin Durant,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. “We didn’t roll over. We didn’t just say, ‘Come on, man, just give us 50 tonight.’ Of course not. He’s a hell of a player. The shots he took — he made some tough shots. If you were a coach, what would you tell us to do? Thank you.”
Said Clippers guard Lou Williams of Durant, “We tried everything. Like sometimes — sometimes you come across special people, and it doesn’t matter what you send to them. There’s no scheme. There’s no nothing that you can do with special people. He’s one of them. And he showed it tonight. He put them guys on his shoulders.”
Williams had been a dynamic scorer off the bench for the Clippers all series, but he struggled mightily in Game 6, finishing with eight points on 3-of-21 shooting. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Williams’ 18 missed shots were the most by a player off the bench in a game since starters were listed in 1970-71.
“I live and die with the shots I take,” Williams said. “Tonight was especially tough because it was a deciding game. I wish I would have played better. But I’ll go to sleep tonight happy with the shots that I took and missed.”
Still, Rivers had nothing but praise for his team and even compared it to the 2008 Boston Celtics team he coached that won a title.
“This was the 2008 Celtics without [Kevin] Garnett, Ray Allen, [Rajon] Rondo and Paul [Pierce],” Rivers said. “It really was, like, same heart, played every night hard. And that’s why they connected. I think you could take this team and put it in every NBA city, and when they leave, every NBA city would love this team. Because the people who come to games go to work all day. And they love to see players who play like they work.
“And I thought what the city saw in this team, what I saw in this team, was a hard-hat team that came to work every day. And it doesn’t matter if you’re blue collar or white collar, people appreciate workers.”