OKLAHOMA CITY -- The tears were flowing in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
Not because Thunder fans were sobbing about what the Clippers did to their team in Game 1, but because Kevin Durant delivered an emotional speech when he was presented with the 2013-14 Most Valuable Player award. Durant went beyond the usual platitudes, singling out every one of his teammates with an anecdote about how they helped him be successful before capping it off with a heart-to-heart moment with his mom.
One could see how such a sentimental ceremony could bring what was already a team praised for its chemistry even closer together. Specifically, Durant making sure his love and support for the much maligned Russell Westbrook was well known could be the reaffirmation that the team needed after a first round series against the Grizzlies that featured a disconnected dynamic duo. With Oklahoma City's famously raucous crowd likely to be as juiced up as ever after Durant is presented with the trophy again before the game, the Thunder may be able to feed off the emotion that stems from Durant's teary-eyed speech.
But Chris Paul isn't concerned.
"I ain't worried about all that," the Clipper point guard said. "It's basketball."
Paul said the he didn't leave the hotel yesterday, meaning he was numb to the noticeable vibe around town. He called Durant a close friend and a brother and said he thought the speech was great, but he quickly shot down the idea that the Clippers were anxious about the impact it may have on tonight's game.
"I thought it was terrific. It was very nice," Doc Rivers said of Durant's MVP speech. "I love he fact that he thanked his teammates and his coaching and everything. I thought that was great."
GRANGER EMBRACING HIS ROLE
Rivers was asked at shootaround about the play of Danny Granger, who has struggled with his shot this post-season, and if he was worried about his faint output thus far in the playoffs.
"He hasn't got the ball a lot. If he hasn't gotten the ball a lot, it's kind of hard to score," Rivers said. "I don't have any concern there."
Doc reiterated that the team is not expecting Granger to be the 20 point per game guy that he was for the Pacers during his prime.
"That's not true anymore," Rivers said. "He's become a role player. It's probably more difficult for him, but I think it is difficult for every single role player."
Granger is 8-of-30 from the field and 3-of-15 from deep through eight playoff games this season, but he's found other ways to contribute on the glass and defensively. Even as he searches for his shot, Rivers is happy with the way Granger has handled the transition from the star to a rotation guy.
"Everybody in the NBA, at some point, was a star in college or in high school," Rivers continued. "And the guys that have to become role players, that is difficult. But most of them learn, and I think Danny is in the process of that."
PICKING AND ROLLING
I spoke with DeAndre Jordan about Los Angeles' pick-and-roll attack and what they were looking to do any time Paul and Blake Griffin ran a screen-and-roll at the top of the key.
"Initially we are just trying to take whatever they give us," Jordan said. "We have six players on the team that could average 20 (points) a game if they wanted to. But our main guys - Chris and Blake - are really unselfish to where they really want to pass more than they want to shoot the ball."
Paul and Griffin combined for 15 of the Clippers' 26 assists on Monday night in addition to scoring 55 points as a duo. Jordan noted how both players are waiting to see how the floor looks after they run the screen-and-roll to determine their next move.
"On our pick-and-rolls, if Chris can't get a shot or if Blake can't get a roll, then it depends how much the floor opens up," Jordan said. "If it does, Blake will find shooters, and if not, it's an easy pass to me at the rim."
When I asked him if there was a player in the league that was more dangerous when getting the ball at the free throw line than Griffin, he didn't hesitate with his answer.
"I don't think so," Jordan said. "He can shoot it right there, he can make the pass to the corners, he can make the lob pass and he can also take one dribble and dunk it from right there, too. So he's pretty deadly once he rolls out of (a pick-and-roll) and gets it at the free throw line."