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Clippers coach Doc Rivers says defending NBA champion Spurs can be beaten

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Doc Rivers wore a somewhat perplexed look this week when it was suggested to him the San Antonio Spurs look practically unbeatable at this time.“No, I think you can beat anybody. You just have to match it,” Rivers said. “I’ve never met an unbeatable team. Everybody’s beatable. You’ve just gotta hang in there long enough to do it.”Rivers, the second-year coach of the Clippers, will lead his team into the dangerous web of the defending NBA champion Spurs in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs. Game 1 is Sunday night at 7:30 at Staples Center.Not only are the Spurs defending champions, they no doubt will be motivated by the idea that while they have five titles since 1999, they have yet to repeat. Also, they won 14 of their last 16 regular-season games and 21 of their last 25. The Clippers won 14 of their last 15, but they’ve never gone past the second round of the playoffs in franchise history, so that doesn’t carry as much weight. So how much of an advantage is that for them?“I don’t know, it’s a clear advantage,” Rivers said. “They should have the advantage. They have an advantage over every team playing, not just us. They have an advantage over everybody. They’ve won titles together and that you cannot knock off.“They can be down 20 in a game, they won’t be fazed. It can be a one-point game, they won’t be fazed.”The solution, Rivers said, is for his players to be themselves.“My belief, at the end of the day, comes down to you’ve gotta play your game,” he said. “You can’t worry about the other teams.” When the Spurs are right — like they are right now — they are a well-oiled, ball-moving machine.“You have to try to limit easy baskets,” Clippers power forward Blake Griffin said.The Clippers also have beautiful ball movement. They averaged 106.7 points this season — second only to Golden State’s 110.0. Point guard Chris Paul is having a banner season, averaging 19.1 points and a league-high 10.2 assists. With Barnes, Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and shooting guard J.J. Redick, the starting five is outstanding.But sixth-man Jamal Crawford recently missed 17 games and has not yet found his shooting rhythm. Since the Clippers’ bench is already suspect, San Antonio — with Ginobili leading the way — seemingly has the upper hand there.The Clippers and Spurs split the season series 2-2, with San Antonio winning the first two and the Clippers the last two. They met in the conference semifinals in 2011-12, the Spurs sweeping the Clippers.That was Paul’s first season with the Clippers, who already had Griffin and Jordan but not Redick, Barnes or Crawford.“If we’re not better prepared now than we were three years ago,” Paul said, “then we probably shouldn’t even play.”center_img “To be the best, you’ve gotta beat the best,” said Clippers starting small forward Matt Barnes, telling it like it really is.What the Clippers are facing is a team that is getting old, but not playing old. Forward/center Tim Duncan, a lock for the Hall of Fame, will be 39 on April 25, but he still averaged 13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks this season. Small forward Kawhi Leonard — last season’s Finals MVP and a pup at 23 — led the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game and led the league in steals with a 2.3 average.There’s point guard Tony Parker. Again, he’s sort of aging at 32 — almost 33 — but he’s still very good and averaged 14.4 points and 4.9 assists. Sixth-man Manu Ginobili, 37, remains a thorn in the side of opponents, averaging 10.5 points and 4.2 assists off the bench.There is all that playoff experience, too. Duncan has been around for all five titles, Parker for four and Ginobili for four.“We’re not going to have their experience,” Rivers said. “There’s no way. So what?”last_img

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