Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson faced off against each other as NBA players, and now the two men will go up against each other as head coaches in the postseason when Rivers' Los Angeles Clippers take on Jackson's Golden State Warriors.
Rivers has been doing this coaching thing a long time, so he has a clear edge over Jackson in terms of experience. The Clippers are also the better team, but that experience should also come in handy.
Rivers had middling success as coach of the Orlando Magic before struggling a bit at the outset of his tenure with the Boston Celtics. But once Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined the fray, things really took off. Rivers won at least 50 games in four straight seasons, with two 60-win seasons and a title in that stretch. For his career, Rivers has won over 56 percent of his regular-season games and just under 53 percent of his postseason games.
Upon leaving Boston, Rivers took the reins of a Clippers team that had loads of talent but lacked a proven leader on the sidelines. While Vinny Del Negro did some good things as head coach, Rivers brought much more credibility to the Clippers' sideline.
Los Angeles only finished one game better than last year, but the tactical edge Rivers has over Del Negro should be more visible in the postseason. Something worth monitoring will be how Rivers handles DeAndre Jordan, especially down the stretch. Jordan has really come into his own as a defender this season, but his poor free-throw shooting could be a problem. So Rivers will have to weigh the costs and benefits of having Jordan on the floor in crunch time.
After a poor first season in Golden State, Jackson turned the team around and guided them to a 47-win season last year. The Warriors then upset the Denver Nuggets despite an injury to David Lee before bowing out to the San Antonio Spurs in the postseason.
Like last year, Jackson will be short a big man in the playoffs. This time it will be Andrew Bogut, who is out indefinitely with a broken rib. A healthy Bogut has been key to the Warriors' defensive success over the past few years, and now Jackson has some difficult decisions to make when it comes to his lineups.
Jackson has been criticized at times for being stubborn in his traditional ways, and he may choose to go the traditional route by starting Jermaine O'Neal in place of Bogut. On the other hand, Jackson could go with a smaller lineup and start Draymond Green instead. Jackson is sure to use both lineups, but it will be interesting to see which one he prefers as the series goes along.