Paul George staying out of foul trouble will be crucial to the Los Angeles Clippers' hopes of reaching the Western Conference Finals, says coach Doc Rivers.
The Clippers head into Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets in Orlando on Tuesday, with rivals the Los Angeles Lakers waiting if they can progress.
Rivers' team blew a 19-point lead in Orlando as the Nuggets forced a deciding Game 7 with a 111-98 victory on Sunday, with the Clippers having also given up a 16-point advantage in the previous contest.
The coach insists there is no secret to explain how the Clippers lost those leads and stressed the importance of his guards remaining out of foul trouble.
George, one of the NBA's premier defensive players, had four fouls in Games 4 and 5 and then five in Game 6, a contest that saw Patrick Beverley foul out in 18 minutes.
"PG can't get in foul trouble," Rivers said ahead of Game 7.
"I think he's been in foul trouble at least two, maybe three of the games, and at times he's not even guarding one of your key guys. We've just got to keep him on the floor.
"The foul trouble by our guards, they have been very hurtful in this series, and not just the last two games.
"We've got to keep our guards on the floor, because if we don't, we've got to go to lineups defensively that are not desirable."
Rivers is comforted to have two-time NBA champion Kawhi Leonard with him for such a big occasion after his heroics in the playoffs with the Toronto Raptors en route to winning last season's title.
"He's unshakable," said Rivers. "Kawhi, you can't guarantee he'll play well or not because he's human and all players are.
"But you know, the moment won't be too big. That's the one thing like with him, you just know that. So that's comforting to know that."
Game 7 on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/KNot8YFbqm— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 13, 2020
Discussing the two collapses against the Nuggets, Rivers said there was "no secret potion" to explain what happened on those occasions.
He added: "The two things that we didn't do, clearly defensively, they shot almost 60 per cent in the second half. The one thing that did stand out, they went to the free-throw line like on every play."
And Rivers is not planning an emotional pre-game speech to fire up his players before the pivotal matchup.
"I'm going to say 'let’s go win'," he said. "Rah-rah speeches are overrated - that's for the movies.
"They last about three minutes and then you come running out and you're fired up. And then three minutes later you've got to focus on playing basketball. So there’s no secret speech.
"The real thing is you've got to have them prepared, and preparation. That's what we’ll do, we'll get them doing what we've done to get the leads and we'll continue to do it.
"But there's nothing secret or magical. It is about playing basketball. Manning up, moving the ball and doing all of the things we can do."Published 15 Sep 2020, 17:54 IST