CLIPPERS-SPURS GAME FOUR PREVIEW
Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 5/19/12

LOS ANGELES–The Clippers are on the precipice of elimination.

A week ago they were faced with the same plight in Memphis and advanced by overcoming a hostile crowd and injuries to numerous key starters. Entering Sunday's Game 4, they're in a much more precarious situation, trailing the top-seeded Spurs by three games and needing a win to send the series back to San Antonio.     

"We were desperate in Game 7 in Memphis, and you see how we came out and played," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. "Hopefully, we can be the best for the next four games."  

LAST TIME OUT

GAME 4
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
May 20, 2012 | 7:30 PM (PST)
TV: TNT
RADIO: KFWB 980 AM
Schedule
TV Companion
Videos from LACtv
Twitter: @LAClippers | Facebook

Spurs 96, Clippers 86 (Spurs lead series, 3-0): Game 3 was the tale of two runs. The Clippers opened the game with a phenomenal, 40-16, start. Blake Griffin scored 14 points in the first quarter, Nick Young, Randy Foye, and Mo Williams were canning shots from behind the arc, and most importantly the Clippers were taking advantage of defensive stops and getting out in transition.  

But all of that ended at the 8:30-minute mark in the second quarter. The Spurs strung together a run that lasted through the third quarter. Tim Duncan knocked down a baseline turnaround to give San Antonio the lead 6:09 after halftime. They would proceed to score 10 more points in a row before Mo Williams halted the run with a floater.  

"I felt like we were playing good, but if you know anything about the Spurs, you know they are not going to let up," said Paul, who scored 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting with 11 assists and three turnovers. "It's tough when you have such a lead like that, especially at home. They went back to the pick-and-roll again and we haven't found a solution."  

Griffin finished with a game-high 28 points and playoff career-high 16 boards. Mo Williams added 19 off the bench, missing just four shots from the field. Duncan had 19 points and 13 rebounds with Tony Parker adding 23 points and 10 assists. RECAP

LOOKING AHEAD

The 3-point line. Defending the 3-point line continues to be problem for the Clippers. San Antonio went 9-for-22 in Game 3 and have made at least nine shots from behind the arc in each game in the series (32 makes total).

After the game Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro talked about why adjusting to the Spurs offense has been such a challenge. "Well you've got to pick your spots, that's why they're deep, and that's why they've won so many games-because it's difficult. You help on the corner three and you give up layups with Tim [Duncan], [Tiago] Splitter diving, or Boris [Diaw] making plays. You need to bump high and you need to get out quick. It is difficult but that is what they do; they have a bunch of shooters and if you go out on them then you have Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili] attacking the rim."  


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Griffin, as many of the Clippers have discussed throughout the series, said that contesting threes is part of a larger emphasis on defense heading into Game 4.

"With them winning that many games, we know we can beat them, but we have to come out and really execute defensively first and let our defense get us into our offense," he said. "Let our defense lead to transition points and spot up threes. Whatever it is, defense has to be our main focus."

The right rotation. After pushing the right buttons in Memphis, Del Negro hasn't seemed to be able to find the right group at the right time in this series. Part of that has to do with injuries to Griffin and Paul, but it also is a sign of how difficult the Spurs depth makes it on opposing teams.

Eric Bledsoe was a dynamic two-way player in Game 1, scoring 23 points and playing tough defense on Ginobili and Parker. However, he's yet to get going since. Williams has made 12-of-18 shots in three games, but somewhat inexplicably sat for nearly nine minutes in the fourth quarter Saturday. And minutes alongside Griffin have been sporadic at times for DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Evans, and Kenyon Martin.

In Game 7 last Sunday, Del Negro said he was going with "an all hands on deck" approach. With their season on the line, he'll presumably manage Game 4 the same way.

MORE ON FACING ELIMINATION

Vinny Del Negro: "You just have to play-just play hard. Play hard and compete like they have all year. Make them earn everything. Come out with an aggressive mentality. This is the first step for us obviously. We're trying to start something here, and this is a great learning process for us against a team that has been through it for a lot of years. You have to earn everything. I don't care how much you are up or down. You need to keep fighting and take every minute out there as a learning experience. Just play hard. Represent yourself, the organization, and the fans in the right way."

Chris Paul: "We have to keep fighting. It's [coming back from 0-3 deficit] never been done before in history."  

DeAndre Jordan: "It's a back-to-back tomorrow, so we can look to that to our advantage. We are a young team. Hopefully, tomorrow we can get out there and run and have a good start like we did tonight and continue to play that way throughout the remainder of the game."  

Nick Young: "We have to look at this like we did in Game 7. Nobody wants to be in this situation. We made it hard on ourselves. We were up big. You see how [the Spurs] got back in the game. We're desperate now. It's win or go home."  

Randy Foye: "We're either going home for the summer or back to San Antonio."  

Blake Griffin: "Our backs are against the wall, so if we don't play with a sense of urgency, it's not going to be pretty. Now is the time, from the beginning is the time, but we don't really have any time to let a play go, or let a loose ball go, or anything like that. We have to dig deep, find something and make it work."  

NOTES

No team in NBA history has overcome a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series. Three teams have come back from down 0-3 to tie their respective series (1951 Knicks, 1994 Nuggets, 2003 Trail Blazers)...The Clippers top six scorers in the postseason are all averaging fewer points per game than they did in the regular season, including Williams, Foye, and Caron Butler, who are each averaging nearly three points less… Asked whether he would consider adjusting his starting lineup prior to Game 3, Del Negro said, "No. I wouldn't do that to those guys."

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