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Doc Rivers said he didn’t plan to leave Boston; doesn’t shy away from Clipper title talk

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Doc Rivers said he wanted to stay focused on the Clippers in his introductory press conference (which was shown live on NBA TV), but you knew there were going to be a lot of Boston questions.

Rivers admitted he didn’t plan to leave Boston — he said he went so far to say he wanted out of the negotiations and he told Celtics GM Danny Ainge he was coming back.

“I kind of pulled out myself, not from being mad or anything, I just had enough of it…” Rivers said of the drawn-out negotiations. “I called Danny and said, ‘I’m staying, I’m coaching that’s what I am, let’s move forward.’ Then two hours later he told me ‘no, you’re not staying, you’re going.’”

Through it all Rivers said what drew him to the Clippers job was the challenge — he didn’t back away from title talk and aspirations. Which is a new attitude around the Clippers.

“Quite honestly, at this point in my life it’s the only reason I’m coaching, is to try to win titles,” Rivers said. “For us, we have to prove we can win a series first and then build from there.”

Is this Clippers roster really ready to win a title?

“We didn’t win it last year, so there is clearly work to do…” Rivers said. “The reason I wanted this when it came available is because of what they have, not what they don’t have.

“I clearly think this is an extremely talented basketball team, there were times in last year when they were the best team. What we have to figure out is, with the group we have can we do that in the postseason as opposed to just the regular season?”

If the Clippers are going to contend it is going to have to start with more consistent defense and protection of the paint. The Clippers were a top 10 defensive team overall but allowed the second highest shooting percentage in the restricted area in the league and the fourth highest in the paint outside the restricted area.

Rivers had great defenses in Boston, but Tom Thibodeau was his assistant coach who set that up and Kevin Garnett was the guy anchoring everything and quarterbacking the defense in the paint. Can he run that same strong-side overload defense with the Clippers?

“With the personnel here for sure,” Rivers said. “I think offenses have improved, you can’t do it exactly the same anymore, I just don’t think you can, guys have wised up to what we were doing, but with DeAndre (Jordan) and Blake (Griffin) I think you can absolutely form an unbelievable defense. They are long, they are athletic, that always starts a good defense, and we have that in house right now.”

That Clippers roster is going to need tweaks, and Rivers will have input on that (more than he did in Boston). He will not get Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce — Boston plans to trade both of them and the stipulations in the compensation package for Rivers said the Clippers and Celtics cannot trade players until next summer.

Even with roster tweaks, in the end one of the most respected coaches in the league is going to have to get more out of the guys already on the roster — particularly Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — if they are going to take the step up to serious contenders.

Doc Rivers isn’t backing away from that challenge. Instead, he is putting it right out there from Day 1.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.

Gregg Popovich: Spurs started Manu Ginobili ‘out of respect’

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The Spurs started Manu Ginobili in their Game 4 loss to the Warriors last night.

For strategic reasons or because they wanted to honor him in what could be his final game before retirement?

The was certainly a case for the former. Ginobili had played well in the series, and Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker were out injured. Ginobili played 32 minutes, much more manageable when starting. Plus, Zaza Pachulia was also out injured, so Golden State started small, and Ginobili could have helped San Antonio match up.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:

We started him tonight out of respect. That was the whole reason for starting him.

Before the game, you think it may or may not be the last game he ever plays in. And I did not want to miss the opportunity to honor him in front of our home fans for his selflessness over the years. I mean, this is a Hall of Fame player who allowed me to bring him off the bench for – I ca ‘t even remember now – the last decade or something, because it would make us a better team overall. So, obviously, he’s a big reason for our success. And he deserved to have that night of respect so that he really feels that we appreciate everything he’s done over the years.

If he decides he’s going to play again, that’s up to him. But I won’t try to convince him one way or the other. I don’t think he needs that.

Perhaps, Popovich was just giving Ginobili a just-in-case sendoff. Ginobili has said he’ll take a few weeks to decide on retirement.

But Popovich could have inside information and, if starting Ginobili was about honoring him rather than an adjustment to beat the Warriors, maybe the coach just tipped Ginobili’s hand.

Interesting video: Every LeBron James paint bucket in the 2017 playoffs

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Yes, the video is a little long, more than eight minutes. Have you watched LeBron James these playoffs?

LeBron has been the best player in the postseason and one of the reasons — along with his hitting threes and great passing — has been how often he got into the paint and scored buckets. He has taken advantages of mismatches (and there may be only one defender in the league who is not a mismatch) and attacked the rim, getting into the paint and finishing impressively.

JM Poulard, who has written for a number of good NBA blogs over the years, compiled this video and it’s interesting to watch. Both in terms of how LeBron is getting his buckets inside, and to just marvel at the greatest player of his generation.

Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob hopes team sees Cavaliers in Finals due to “unfinished business”

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It’s easy for him to say, Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob doesn’t have to set foot on the court in the next round and see LeBron James on the other side.

However, I bet a lot of Warriors’ players feel the same way.

Lacob spoke to some reporters after the Warriors swept their way into the playoffs. He suggested the Warriors would prefer a rubber match, a trilogy with the Cavaliers. Here are the comments, via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Honestly, I don’t really care who we play (shoots a sly grin). Ok, maybe a slight preference for Cleveland. Only because I feel we have some unfinished business from last season…

“I think (this team is better than last year’s). Honestly. I think we’re better. It’s hard not to be better when you have a guy as good as Kevin Durant on your team. We were awful good last year. The one difference is Steph was hurt, as we all know. How much we can debate. But he was not what you see out there now. Then of course we had some other issues in the Finals. With Kevin, this is a very, very good team. The opposition is going to be good in the Finals. So not taking anything for granted.”

These Warriors create new challenges for how the Cavaliers attacked them last postseason, particularly offensively because of Durant’s ability to score one-on-one. But we’ll get into a lot of that over the next eight days until the Finals begin.

Just don’t doubt the Warriors would like a little revenge.

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