LOS ANGELES — The LA Clippers were eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race Saturday with a 134-115 loss to the Denver Nuggets. They needed to win out in the remaining three games to even give themselves an outside shot at making the playoffs.
“Well obviously, usually I let you guys go first but I figured after 79 games,I should get a chance to say what the hell I want to say, so I am going to take this opportunity,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “I have never been more proud of a team that didn’t make the playoffs. This team has been through so much all year. So many more things that people do not know. You know our 45-day guys have been exceptional all year and most of the days that they were with us,they couldn’t practice because we are trying squeeze the days out of them. You think about a rookie that is playing on an NBA team that can’t even be in the gym when his team is practicing and then the next night we fly him on a commercial flight and he has to get off the plane and then go play in an NBA game, that is the stuff that this team has done all year,and yet somehow, we kept our heads above water. I have coached a long time, I don’t know how many years this is, 18 and I think I have had one or two losing seasons in my entire coaching career and this should have been the third one when you think about it and somehow it isn’t. We are above .500, had a chance to make the playoffs and at the end of the day, honestly, we played against the teams that have a chance to make it and they are better. But we won a lot of games against teams that are better than us and I thought as a group, I don’t think I have been more proud of a group, maybe ever, than I have been of this group. We have asked a lot of guys to do a lot of stuff that they should not have had to do and yet they did it. You look at this team and you see the whole backcourt basically out. Four or five of your starters,from the beginning of the year,have been out most of the year and yet we kept winning. You know I have gotten a lot of credit, I am telling you it is the guys. It is them. They have been so easy to coach, and so it is easy for coaches to look good when you have a bunch of guys that are easy to coach and that was this group. Not the year that I wanted, not the year that I thought we would have, but it is the year that happened and so I think we have restarted out franchise. I think we are headed in the right direction and I would have loved to have gotten this group over any group in the playoffs because I just thought with their effort and the things that they have been through they really deserved it.”
Nikola Jokic notched his ninth triple-double of the season with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to move the Nuggets into an eighth-place tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Day games have never been as strong point for the Clippers, and Saturday’s first half was proof of exactly that. Denver shot better than 71 percent from the field in the opening quarter to go build an 11-point lead. The Nuggets were up 13 at half.
“When I first got here, one of our main goals was to make the playoffs, so it’s disappointing. Obviously, there were a bunch of injuries that happened over the course of, even at the time when I got here, but at the same time we tried to fight every single game. Tonight, we just didn’t have enough effort to take them out and give them credit, they played a great game, but at the same time, it’s disappointing that we didn’t get the win.”
The Clippers have two games remaining this season. They’ll host the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night, and finish the season in a Battle of L.A. Wednesday against the Lakers.