One of the criticisms of Doc Rivers upon his Los Angeles firing is that he just did not coach a very good series against Denver in the bubble.
Montrezl Harrell was getting minutes over Ivica Zubac, despite the Clips putting up better defensive numbers with the latter on the floor. They were blowing big leads and Paul George never really got going. It seemed like the talent was there, but they coughed up a 3-1 lead and exited in the second round.
This week, George was on Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson’s “All the Smoke” podcast and had some pointed things to say about Rivers regarding that collapse and his usage.
“It was tough, because we were confident. We went up 3-1, we felt like, we’re going to win the next one. We lost. We (were) like, ‘cool, we’re up 3-2, we gonna win the next one.’ We lost. But during that whole process, we never worked on adjustments. We never worked on what to do differently. We just literally having the same shit happen over and over again. It started to play a trick on you like, man, what’s going on?”
“We are talking amongst each other like the conversation is, ‘we are going to be all right.’ The conversation should have been like, ‘nah, we need to change this, we need to switch this up.’ I don’t think we deserved it. We weren’t prepared enough going into it. We didn’t put the work into it.”
He had this to say about his specific role under Rivers:
Paul George on Doc Rivers: “Coach was trying to play me as a Ray Allen or as a JJ Redick, all pin downs. I can do it, but that just ain't my game." (via All The Smoke Podcast)
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) December 2, 2020
A pin down is an off-ball screen facing the baseline. So it’s basically like “pinning down” the defender and letting your teammate run off the angled screen towards the ball. Redick and Marco Belinelli used to fly off these screens under Brett Brown.
And look, George is right; that’s not his game. Those designs are good for pure shooters, like… Ray Allen and JJ Redick. Snipers running hard off those screens, right? George needs a mixture of pick and roll and some isolation and plays more like three and less like a two. He’s 6’8″.
That said, PG didn’t exactly cover himself in glory. He shot 4 for 16 in game seven of that series and 2 for 11 from three. His fouling and turnover numbers were not good and there were two games in which he didn’t even get to the foul line.
The blame should probably be shared between player and coach. Hopefully for Sixers fans they get a rejuvenated Doc Rivers who benefits from a change of scenery.