Doc Rivers Says Lakers, Clippers Are Still Teams to Beat in West over Jazz

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers Doc Rivers, right, talks to a referee during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Los Angeles. The 76ers won 109-101. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Doc Rivers may not be coaching in the Western Conference anymore, but he still sees the two Los Angeles teams as the ones to beat.

"Listen, Utah has been great. But I still think the Clippers and Lakers are still the teams to beat in the West," Rivers told reporters after his Sixers' 122-112 loss to the Clippers on Saturday. "...I don't see anyone better than those two teams."

The Utah Jazz currently lead the West with a 34-11 record. The Clippers are third in the conference at 31-16, while the Lakers (29-17) have fallen to fourth amid injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Clippers fired Rivers after they were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs last season. Denver, meanwhile, made significant moves to improve its title chances at the deadline, acquiring Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee. 

The Clippers added Rajon Rondo in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks, while the Lakers were quiet on deadline day, instead hoping to bolster their roster on the buyout market. 

"I thought Denver had a great trade deadline—they did great moves," Rivers said. "Utah is playing unbelievable basketball, so they are going to be right there. Portland, I thought improved their team as well. But I still think it's the Lakers and the Clippers."

Rivers' Sixers currently have an Eastern Conference-best 32-14 record and appear to be part of a three-way race to reach the NBA Finals with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets added more firepower over the weekend, signing LaMarcus Aldridge to a roster that already includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Bucks made one of the biggest moves before the deadline, adding P.J. Tucker from the Houston Rockets.

None of the other teams in the conference are closer than eight games behind the Sixers.