CLIPPERS READY THEMSELVES FOR DECISIVE SERIES FINALE
PLAYA VISTA – Game 7 is looming.
After missing an opportunity to put away the Golden State Warriors on the road Thursday night, the Clippers return home for a winner-take-all final game of their first-round playoff series Saturday.
It is the first time in franchise history the Clippers will host the final game of a series tied at three games apiece. It will be the fourth time they’ve ever played a Game 7.
“This is our season tomorrow,” DeAndre Jordan said. “We have to be ready to come out and play.”
The series has been full of momentum shifts and controversy, adversity and record-setting performances. It seems apropos that going the distance is necessary. And now the Clippers, who have won two out of three at Staples Center, have a chance to come home and advance.
“It’s about us as a team,” Chris Paul said. “It sounds so cliché, but this is what you work for home court for to come back here for Game 7 and go out there and compete.”
Paul has appeared in two previous Game 7’s, winning one and losing the other. He’s averaged 18.5 points, nine assists and 8.5 rebounds in those game.s.
Before Friday’s practice at their Playa Vista Training Center, the Clippers sounded disappointed in the way they competed in Game 6. They lost the battle of the 50-50 balls and Head Coach Doc Rivers said the Warriors played “tougher” than the Clippers in their 100-99 loss in Oakland that evened the series.
The circumstances have shifted, though. Now, the Clippers and Warriors are forced to play in desperation mode.
“It’s a closeout game for both now,” Rivers said. “You can look at it any way. We are trying to close them out or if we lose we go home. Game 7’s are great because all of that’s at play. I think they’re the best and you should really enjoy it and just go out and have fun.
“At the end of it, the team that wins is usually the team that executes the best because everyone wants to do it and sometimes guys want to do more than they should. Then, they don’t execute well.”
Rivers has coached in eight Game 7’s in his career, earning a record of 4-4. But he won two en route to the 2008 NBA title with the Celtics. It was something he brought up to the Clippers in training camp back in October.
“I think his point was just that the road [to a championship] is tough,” Blake Griffin said. “It’s going to be tough and you’re going to face adversity. We clearly have faced adversity this round. I think it’s important that we’ve all kind of stayed the course and all been pretty positive about it.”
The Clippers faced injury and scheduling adversity throughout the regular season, and while nagging injuries have remained problematic since the Playoffs began, they were thrown into a whirlwind of controversy midway through the series with Golden State. A series that looked under control at one point was suddenly thrown into upheaval. But on Saturday, it will finally get back to simply playing basketball.
“You have to handle some of the things they’re doing and they have to handle some of the things you’re trying to do to them,” Rivers said when asked about potential strategic adjustments prior to Game 7. “I’m sure they’re going to try and get Curry loose still a little bit more. We’re going to get Chris loose a little bit more. We’re going to try and get Blake out of the trap. So, listen, in 24 hours we’re not going to recreate the wheel.”
PAUL ON THE MEND
Paul, who has played through a strained right hamstring and other ailments throughout the Playoffs, said he is “good” heading into Saturday.
“At 7:30 when that ball is thrown up, I’ll be right there,” Paul said.
“He’ll be good,” Rivers added. “He’s not going to get any healthier by tomorrow, but he’ll be fine.”
Paul also said he needs to be more aggressive offensively after taking 10 shots or fewer in three of the six games in the series so far. He was 3-for-10 in Game 6, scoring nine points, his first single-digit scoring effort in the Playoffs since Apr. 25, 2013 at Memphis. On Thursday, Paul played through a problem with his left hand and foul trouble.
“I probably need to be a little more aggressive,” Paul said. “I think I had a couple of bad fouls. Probably my first foul on Steph [Curry] and the second one was here or there, which is tough because I can’t help my team from the bench.”
Rivers agreed that Paul needs to be aggressive, but he wants him to do it within the flow of the offense, particularly because the energy he is expending keeping up with the ever-weaving Curry.
“Chris is doing a great job defensively,” Rivers said. “He doesn’t have a lot in the tank. He just has to do it in a quicker fashion. I don’t mind him being aggressive, but what we don’t want him to do is be aggressive when the ball stops. We want him aggressive and making quick decisions.”