Tempers flared at the end of Monday’s Rockets-Clippers game and, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, those tempers extended into the locker room. James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green reportedly pushed into the Clippers’ locker room looking for Austin Rivers, who was apparently talking trash at Ariza during the final moments of the fourth quarter.
Houston Rockets’ players James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green pushed into Clippers locker room post-game looking to confront Austin Rivers, league sources tell ESPN. Security escorted Rockets out before anything turned physical.
Rockets players were clamoring for Blake Griffin too, league sources said. Chris Paul also entered with other Rockers players through a backstory that connects team dressing rooms. https://t.co/BRgyHe1WgL
Sources: As the four Rockets marched through the back hallway into the Clippers locker room, center Clint Capela knocked on the front door of Clippers entrance. Someone opened door, saw him standing there — and shut it on him.
LOS ANGELES — Austin Rivers was the first responder.
He was the one who was knocked into Blake Griffin, landed on his left knee, heard him scream.
He talked to Griffin in the Clippers’ locker room, although Griffin wasn’t in the mood to converse.
“He’s down,” Rivers said. “It’s like oh, no, not again.”
That is taken in an individual and team sense. Griffin’s biggest NBA obstacles are the muscles and ligaments that threaten to burst through the skin, yet can’t weather 82 games, not the way he attacks them.
The Clippers have already lost three of the top players they meant to use to fill the empty locker of Chris Paul.
Griffin left the locker room without comment Monday night.
“I think it’s hyperextended,” Rivers said, speaking of Griffin’s knee. ‘“I hope it’s hyperextended. I hope that’s all it is, because if it is, he might miss a game or two. I hope it’s not worse. That’s the last thing we need, missing that guy.”
The first things they need are victories, and the Clippers still got one Monday, a vastly entertaining 120-115 win over a Lakers squad that will wonder how it got away.
The Clippers were up 112-110 with 3:53 left when Griffin came to the bench and then disappeared into the wings. They still won, possibly because the Lakers launched a cascade of bad shots, possibly because there are nights when there is no bad shot if it comes off the fingertips of Lou Williams.
Williams was with the Lakers for much of last season, so there were no secrets here. He bombarded them with 42 points, hit all 14 of his free-throw attempts and all seven in the fourth quarter, and went 12 for 21 from the field. He and Austin Rivers combined to go 19 for 37 for 61 points. All were needed against a Lakers team that pounded the Clips with second-chance points and bench production.
“I used to guard him,” Austin Rivers said. “Don’t let him go left. I don’t know why teams do it, but they do. He shoots this fading shot and you can’t block it. But tonight he went right, too. He threw down that one dunk, over Josh Hart, and they had to take him (Hart) out of the game right then. He’s more athletic than you think.
“He’s a lot like Jamal Crawford was last year, where he can just go off at any time and there’s nothing you can do about it. Jamal was a little more of a finesse guy. He’d shoot more 3-pointers. He also played with the ball a little more. With Lou, he gets it and he’s either going to the basket or passing or shooting. There’s no hesitation.”
With guard Patrick Beverley out for the season, Williams’ chances of winning the Sixth Man Award have diminished. “We have to start him now,” Coach Doc Rivers said.
Williams has played 37, 36 and 37 minutes in his three starts. Conservation is not in the cards until the fallen Clippers begin returning to the perimeter, such as Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic. The Clipper bench provided only 20 points on Monday.
Unfettered scorers are part of NBA lore. It’s not selfishness if you keep making the shots. Philadelphia had World B. Free and Andrew Toney, both known as the Boston Strangler for the carefree way they pounded jump shots in Boston Garden. There was Vinnie Johnson, the Microwave. James Harden was a killer sixth man when he played for Oklahoma City. And there was the afternoon in 1987 when Golden State’s Sleepy Floyd fired all his guns at once and laid 29 fourth-quarter points on the Lakers in a playoff game, 51 in all.
It’s even more special these days, with the single-spaced defensive scouting reports designed to prevent that very thing. But guys like Williams can still turn nine other players into bystanders.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was trying to match Williams, bomb for bomb, through most of the game, but it took him 28 shots to get his 29 points. Jordan Clarkson, the new bench force for the Lakers, led a comeback with 17 points, but there was too much heave-and-hope shooting at the end for the Lakers to keep up.
At least they aren’t dreading the next MRI.
“I fell on him and I felt his knee, I felt it,” Austin Rivers said, shaking his head.
As for Doc Rivers, he shrugged and said, “He might be all right. He might not.” Tuesday will clear that up for a coach who never thought he’d be praying to hear “day-to-day.”
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin rolls over after getting fouled by a Philadelphia 76er during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams, right, blocks a shot by Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, left, as Willie Reed watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, right, is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, middle, drives to the basket past Philadelphia 76ers forward Amir Johnson, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, top, fouls Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons celebrates after making a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin reacts after being called for a foul call against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, middle, shoots between Los Angeles Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell, left, and center Willie Reed during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers center Willie Reed dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, right, pulls a rebound away from Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington, left, celebrates after making a 3-point basket over Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams during the final minute an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. The 76ers 109-104. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric, top, dives for a loose ball with Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
LOS ANGELES — Austin Rivers didn’t want to hear about injuries or new faces in new situations on the court. He didn’t want to hear about excuses, even if they might have been valid reasons for the Clippers’ sixth consecutive defeat, a 109-105 loss Monday to the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center.
The Clippers’ frustration was difficult to ignore after they rallied from a 14-point deficit in the first half, but couldn’t hold a six-point advantage in the closing minutes. Their momentum and their confidence faded again when it mattered most and the game was on the line.
Lou Williams scored 15 of his team-leading 31 points in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers led 94-88 and later by 100-95, and seemed poised to take control down the stretch. Blake Griffin scored 16 of his 29 points in the second quarter, when the Clippers fought back from a 44-30 deficit.
Philadelphia had no answer for Williams or Griffin.
The Clippers couldn’t handle Joel Embiid or Robert Covington, however. Embiid led the 76ers with 32 points and 16 rebounds, fouling out DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed in the process. Covington added 31 points on 9-for-12 shooting, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 33 seconds left.
The 76ers’ 103-101 lead seemed precarious, but they nursed it and maintained it.
Former Clippers guard J.J. Redick scored 10 points in his Staples Center homecoming, including a 3-pointer that cut the 76ers’ deficit to 100-98 with 2:01 left. Austin Rivers later blamed himself for a defensive coverage breakdown that left Redick open.
“We should be winning some of these games,” Austin Rivers said. “I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t have a reason. We just lost. Win. We have to win. Ain’t got time to pout. We’ve got to get on this road trip. It only takes one. We’ve got to get one to get the spirit back up.
“Tonight should have been it.”
Instead, the Clippers added their loss to the 76ers to defeats to the New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies, a skid that’s angered them and frustrated them as it has continued.
“We’ve just got to get this one ‘W’ so we can get back to feeling good again,” Austin Rivers said. “One (expletive) win. We’re making it difficult on ourselves right now. It’s always tough when you’re in a slump. You start second-guessing your (expletive).
“That’s why I say if we just get one win.”
Griffin pleaded for patience, particularly since Patrick Beverley (knee), Danilo Gallinari (glute) and Milos Teodosic (foot) were sidelined by injuries. Beverley missed his third game, Gallinari his fourth and Teodosic his 11th. Those three are among nine new players on the roster.
“It’s a long season,” Griffin said when asked how the Clippers could escape their funk. “We’ve got a lot of games to play. We’re banged up. Just keep pushing, that’s really it. There’s no magic formula. We have to play harder. We have to play better. But, yeah, we just have to keep playing.”
After a day of rest and recovery Tuesday, the Clippers (5-8) are scheduled to practice Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for a five-game trip that begins Friday against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. It’s another test, another opportunity to cure what ails them.
The Cavaliers (7-7) aren’t exactly lighting up the league, either.
Misery loves company?
“We’re playing a team that’s trying to figure their (expletive) out, too,” Austin Rivers said.
He didn’t smile.
“We’ve just got to be better,” he added. “Defensively. Offensively. We’ve just got to be better all around. Winning games in the NBA is hard. That’s what we were talking about before the game. Don’t ever expect winning to be easy. We’ve got to understand that.
“We’ve got to understand that we have to give a 48-minute effort. It’s not, like, a big surprise.”
Griffin said he didn’t like the Clippers’ start. Or their play down the stretch. He was scoreless in the fourth quarter, missing all four shots he attempted. Two of his shots were airballs. Williams carried the Clippers in the final period, making six of eight shots.
“I thought we fought,” Griffin said. “We got down early. We were bad early. Didn’t execute. Didn’t do anything we talked about and then we got it going, got back in the game, got up, a six-point lead, and then I didn’t like how we defended over the last however long it was.”
The lead and the game slipped from the Clippers’ grasp.