Doc Rivers’ insistence to keep Montrezl Harrell on the floor despite his torrid defense played a major role in him getting the sack, according to reports.
The Los Angeles Clippers fired their head coach following 7 seasons without making a single Conference Finals appearance. The manner of their defeat in the second round, when they capitulated to the Denver Nuggets after possessing a 3-1 lead, was a major reason why Doc Rivers was fired.
In each of their last 3 games, the Clippers surrendered double-digit leads to lose the game.
Doc Rivers’ preference of Montrezl Harrell over Zubac cost him his job
According to a report by Jovan Buha of the Athletic, Clippers players were surprised to see Harrell get more minutes than Zubac, despite the latter having a better statistical impact on the court.
Players felt Zubac was a better match up for Jokic, but Rivers continued playing Harrell during important moments in the playoffs.
The Clippers actually performed pretty great with their starting five together on the floor. With Zubac, Leonard and George on, the Clippers posted a strongly positive net rating of 11.6. While a bit of slack can be cut for Harrell in round 1 considering that he was still easing his way in, he remained a sieve on the defensive end in the next round as well.
Harrell was severely undersized against Porzingis in round 1, giving up an 8 inch height advantage to the Latvian. Injury to KP provided Harrell with some respite.
But he got outclassed again in round 2 by the 7 feet tall Jokic. Harrell’s hustle and foot movement is just not enough to contain the guile of a superbly skilled big man like Jokic.
(Buha) – “Two philosophical points of contention between Rivers and the organization were, more recently, his insistance on playing backup center Montrezl Harrell over starting center Ivica Zubac and, at large, his reluctance to empower the team’s younger talent..” pic.twitter.com/XkQujKikmr
— Basketball Society (@bbsociety_) September 29, 2020
“L.A. posted a “team-worst minus-11.6 net rating with [Harrell] on the floor in the playoffs, including a mind-blowing minus-30.1 net rating while sharing the floor with Leonard and George,” Buha said.
“In comparison, the Clippers had a plus-17.7 net rating with Zubac on the floor in the playoffs and a plus-11.1 net rating with Zubac alongside Leonard and George, both marks ranked No. 1 among the team’s rotation players…There was an internal thought process of ‘How does Rivers not see that Zubac is the more productive player and the better postseason matchup?’ he added.
Did the Zubac-Harrell error cost the Clippers?
It’s another matter that Jokic was also unguardable for Anthony Davis in the Conference Finals. The fact remains, however, that Zubac presented a better matchup than Harrell. Even JaMychal Green, who looked pretty good in his limited minutes, could have been a better choice.
Given how many points the Clippers gave up in pick-and-rolls with Harrell on the floor, this kind of tactical inflexibility is inexcusable.