OAKLAND, Calif. — Late great comedian Robin Harris had “Bebe’s Kids.” Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has “The Roaches.”
The Clippers pulled off the greatest playoff comeback in NBA history, overcoming a 31-point deficit to stun the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors in Oracle Arena on Monday night in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Harris once joked that he overheard some bad kids yell, “We’re Bebe’s kids. We don’t die. We multiply.” After the Clippers’ wild win over the Warriors, Rivers told his team, “We don’t die. We multiply. We’re like roaches.”
Rivers told The Undefeated: “I jokingly call them roaches because you can’t kill them, they’re not going away. They accept losing. They accept winning. They accept everything. They’re just a fun group to coach. They keep fighting.”
The Clippers are the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They have no All-Stars and traded their best player, Tobias Harris, to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline. Still, they boast a group of unafraid junkyard dogs who fight as if their lives depend on it, led by Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell.
- Doc Rivers: What I’ve learned in 20 seasons as an NBA head coach
- Kevin Durant: ‘Yo, just watch the game’
- One big NBA family: How the Curry and Rivers clans are deeply related
- From Giannis to Boogie to the no-name Nets, everybody in the playoffs has something to prove
Going up against the Warriors, they are huge underdogs. And in Game 2, the Clippers were down 31 points, 94-63, with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter. They were getting routed on national television.
But they refused to die.
“You don’t want to be the group of guys being blasted on national television,” Williams said.
Comebacks are nothing new for the Clippers this season. They overcame a 28-point deficit on Feb. 9 against the Boston Celtics. They staged a 25-point comeback at Detroit on Feb. 2 and a 20-point comeback on Feb. 5. The Clippers were the only team in the past 20 years to have two 25-point comebacks in a regular season.
“People don’t know our story this season,” Clippers guard Garrett Temple said. “There have been multiple times where we have been down, and this was another example of that. We’re a resilient bunch.”
“The Roaches” went on to score a playoff-record 44 points in the third quarter to trim their deficit to 108-94 entering the fourth quarter. Los Angeles then used a 34-20 run to tie the game on a Williams fadeaway jumper with 1:10 remaining.
“We told them to keep fighting. Get it to 25. Get it to 20,” Rivers said. “Once they get it in the teens, these guys start thinking we can win.”
Rookie guard Landry Shamet nailed a 3-pointer to give Los Angeles the lead, 133-131. And with 5.1 seconds left, Harrell sank two free throws to seal the historic road win for “The Roaches.”
Williams scored 29 points for Los Angeles in the second half, and Harrell and Danilo Gallinari each added 17. The team shot 66.7% from the field in the second half while nailing 8 of 14 3-pointers and 17 free throws. Los Angeles became the second team in playoff history to trail by 23 or more points at halftime and win.
“I just told them they’re roaches. It’s hard to kill us. We got to keep playing,” Rivers said.
Said Warriors coach Steve Kerr: “Clippers were great. They executed. They were hungry. They stayed connected. They were together.”
The Warriors are still expected to win this series even without starting center DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered a quad injury that Kerr described as “significant.” But don’t count out “The Roaches,” for several reasons.
- The always underrated Williams is averaging 30.5 points in two games off the bench.
“He doesn’t get his due. He’s a great player and is one of the great players in the NBA right now,” Rivers said. “They call him ‘sixth man.’ They call him ‘reserve.’ But nobody calls him ‘great.’ He’s a great basketball player in this generation right now.”
- Gallinari is a steady veteran scorer, averaging 20 points and three 3-pointers made per game in the series.
- Harrell is averaging 25.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games off the bench.
- Standing 6 feet, 1 inch and dripping in confidence, Beverley has been an irritating defender against the Warriors’ Kevin Durant, who was limited to eight field goal attempts and no made 3-pointers in Game 2 but did nail 11 of 12 free throws. Beverley and Durant were also both ejected in Game 1 and fouled out in Game 2.
When asked what was his key to defending Durant, Beverley said: “I’m Pat.”
“The Roaches” will return to Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Thursday night with home-court advantage and the series tied 1-1. They have no pressure, no fear. With LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers missing the postseason, the Clippers are suddenly a true Hollywood story.
And while being called “The Roaches” by your coach might sound insulting, the Clippers players love the new nickname and the mentality that comes with it.
“This is the first time I heard ‘Roaches.’ But roaches always come back. I am from Louisiana. You think you kill them, but they always come back,” Temple said.
Gallinari, who is from Italy, said: “I don’t know what a roach is. But if Doc says it, I will take it.”