After a seven-game, two-week battle with the Memphis Grizzlies, the Clippers are faced with a quick turnaround to prepare for the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
Game 1 is Tuesday in San Antonio at 6:30 p.m. PST, a little more than 48 hours after the conclusion of the Clippers 10-point win to eliminate the Grizzlies in round one.
"That's just how the playoffs go," Chris Paul told a large contingent of press after practice at the AT&T Center on Monday. "I think yesterday we were happy with winning that tough series as tough as it was playing against a good Memphis team. Now we've got to refocus to a great San Antonio team."
As for adjusting to a new opponent on the fly, Paul said, "You don't much of a choice. Today we went over the film and tried to go over as much as could as far as how we want to try to guard San Antonio and get ready for them."
Head coach Vinny Del Negro agreed.
The series with the Spurs, who are coming off a four-game sweep of Utah, is expected to be markedly different than the first round. While Memphis is considered a defensive stalwart, the Spurs are one of the most devastating offensive teams in the league, finishing No. 2 in points per game in the regular season and leading the playoffs with 102 per contest.
"I said that today, you know, that series is over," Caron Butler said. "We celebrated last night on the flight over and now we've got to come off that high and get prepared for one of the best teams in the game and that's the San Antonio Spurs. We're definitely aware of all their strengths and what they have done in the past and it's going to be a great challenge."
Butler said among other things the Spurs thrive on getting out in transition, making opponents pay for their mistakes, and offensive execution. They're also incredibly tough at home. Since losing to the Clippers, 120-109, on March 9, San Antonio has won 15 of their last 16 at home, including Games 1 and 2 against the Jazz.
Paul knows the challenge the Clippers face, but says the team knows it has to steal one on the road.
"We knew going into the playoffs, if we wanted to do anything special, we weren't going to have home court advantage in any series," he said. "We knew that it was going to start on the road and we showed that we could [win away from home]."
CARON BUTLER TALKS ABOUT HIS HAND
It was about a minute and a half into the first quarter in Game 7 when Caron Butler drew a foul to get sent to the free throw line. As he missed a driving layup, he was bumped by Tony Allen and stumbled along the baseline.
Butler rarely lets anyone know he's in pain, but when he gathered himself before heading to the line, he reached down at his fractured left hand and winced… ever so slightly.
"That couldn't happen again," Butler said, referring to the knee injury that cost him more than half of the 2011 regular season and playoffs with the Mavericks. "[It was] 48 hours of just a whirlwind, being told that I couldn't play and was out 4-6 weeks. And flying back and going to the gym and shooting with [the injury] on my own and understanding that it wasn't so bad and giving it a shot."
Asked how he convinced Del Negro to consider bringing him back, Butler said, "I said, 'I really want to be out there.' You know, I went to management and went to the trainers and I understood that I would probably have to go through surgery or something if something were to happen and I was cool with that."
His coach's response?
"Like most coaches would say, 'I definitely want you back, but I also want you to be fine for the long haul. At the same time, can you be effective out there with a broken hand?'
"I just try to defend and do all that I can and all the little things and it ended up working out for us."
In five games playing with the injury, Butler averaged 8.8 points and 2.8 rebounds and helped curtail Rudy Gay for most of the series. He scored eight on Sunday, but had a personal playoff-high five boards.
Blake Griffin on the physicality of the Grizzlies series:
"That series was tough. It was a slugfest. We felt like you were kind of just out there hitting people and hoping you wouldn't get a foul call."
Griffin participated in some shooting work on Monday and continued to receive treatment for his sprained left knee.
"He's feeling a little bit better," Del Negro said. "He's still stiff and there's still some inflammation in there and stuff. But as the game goes on it kind of wears down and kind of stiffens up on him a little bit, so hopefully he can get some therapy and rest today and tomorrow and see where we're at.
"You need your star players healthy, but you've just got to deal with it. Blake's going to give us everything he has and hopefully he feels a little bit better today and he'll feel a little bit better tomorrow. If it was the regular season, he'd probably have a week or two off. And he'll fight through the best that he can."
Griffin missed all but 1:49 of the fourth quarter Sunday, saying he couldn't do the things he wanted to physically. But when asked if he would suit up on Tuesday Griffin responded, "There's no doubt I'll play tomorrow."
"I'm not 100%," he added. "But it's tough to say maybe by tomorrow night, 80%. I mean, hopefully, more than that, but realistically it will probably be about that," Griffin said.
"But my knee hasn't gotten worse, that's the encouraging thing. It's just one of those things that needs time."
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