CLIPPERS LOOK TO SEND SERIES BACK TO L.A.
Chris Paul was stern and pointed.
“We have to realize that our backs are against the wall,” the superstar point guard said after practice Thursday.
The Clippers were about an hour away from boarding a flight to Memphis, one that could be their last road trip of the 2012-13 season, and Paul sounded like he was not prepared to let the season end.
How confident is he?
“Very. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be. We’ve been in situations like this.”
As the situation stands, the Clippers are trailing their best-of-seven series against the Memphis Grizzlies, 3-2, and without a victory Friday night at FedEx Forum a season of historic win totals, a perfect December and the franchise’s first-ever Pacific Division title will come to an prematurely.
“I think we’re very confident,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said, echoing Paul’s sentiment. “We’ve won there before. We’ve played this team well. We know what it’s going to take, but we haven’t done what we needed to do the last couple of games to give ourselves a chance.”
The areas Del Negro was alluding to have been glaring for the better part of the last three games. The Clippers have been out-rebounded by 31 in the last three games combined. Their starters have been outscored, 175-93, in the last two games. They have been hurt inside by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, are averaging 13.4 per game turnovers in the series and have allowed 100 or more points in back-to-back games to a Grizzlies team that reached that plateau barely 30-percent of the time in the regular season.
Del Negro did not elaborate on the adjustments the team is expected to make, but did say when it comes to the playing rotation, minutes, and level of focus, “Nothing’s off the board right now.”
“We know what they’re going to do,” he said. “They know what we’re going to do. Now, it’s about the intensity, rebounding, making plays at both ends.”
Blake Griffin, who is nursing a high right ankle sprain, talked about the intensity as did two-time champion Lamar Odom and Paul, who scored 35 points in Game 5 but finished with a personal series-low four assists. At this point, the feeling around the team seems to mirror the on-court situation: they have nothing left to lose.
“It’s going to take a lot of fight,” Paul said. “Playing there on the road has been tough, but we’ve shown the ability to win there in the regular season. And now we’ve got to do it. Our backs are against the wall.”
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to win the games,” Odom said. “In a situation like this, do or die, you have no choice but to respond.”