LOS ANGELES – The Clippers and Jazz throughout their histories, which began humbly in other cities, have only met three times in the postseason. When one of them was good, the other usually wasn’t. For the most part, they moved about the Western Conference without bumping into one another.
That has changed with a slug-it-out series.
“That’s how rivalries start,” J.J. Redick said, “in the playoffs.”
With the Warriors lapping the field and the obvious in-town choice, the Lakers, among the worst in the West, the Clippers seem to be without a team that would be considered a true rival. Why not Utah?
“Could be,” Redick said.
His eye twinkled, acknowledging the obvious issues that could throw either team off their quest to eventually dethrone Golden State.
“Obviously we have some issues to sort through this summer,” he said, “and they’ll have some issues to sort through this summer, as well. With free agency.”
Redick’s own hunt for a new contract is a big enough issue, but with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both likely to exercise early termination options on their deals, the Clippers could be reshaped dramatically by the start of next season.
Same for the Jazz, whose All-Star Gordon Hayward is an unrestricted free agent. Point guard George Hill will join him on the open market and bullying two-guard Joe Ingles will be restricted.
The teams finished with identical 51-31 records, dead in the middle of the playoff hunt. If next year’s teams resemble these two, or if they improve in the offseason, it’s easy to see them continuing to encounter one another in April and May.
Entering Game 6, both teams had scored exactly 495 points. So while Redick said he did “not sense any bad blood” between the sides, the matchup still has the makings of a long-term rivalry.
“Close games,” he said. “They’ve all been good games. Maybe not aesthetically pleasing at times but they’ve all been good, hard-fought games.”
Austin Rivers waited patiently through seven regular-season games and four postseason tilts before team doctors deemed his left hamstring had recovered enough from a strain on March 29 that he could return to the court.
He played 18 minutes in Game 5 on Wednesday at Staples Center, scoring two points. He moved tenderly, hesitated when he attacked the rim and, at times, it looked like maybe he shouldn’t be out there.
In fact, the decision to bring him back for Game 5 might have had more to do with desperation than Rivers’ timeline of recovery.
If it were the regular season, Austin Rivers likely would not be playing – let alone find himself making a surprise start in Game 6.
“It would be close,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I would say probably not. But it is (the playoffs) and we don’t have a lot of choices.”
The coach entered Game 6 planning to ramp up Rivers’ minutes, but he planned to be mindful of stamina.
In Game 5, Doc Rivers said, Austin Rivers “struggled with his…