CLIPPERS READY TO PROVE THEY CAN BOUNCE BACK
PLAYA VISTA – After the Clippers finished their brief practice Tuesday morning Blake Griffin stood in front of about a dozen media members and sounded as conclusive as at any time this season. Perhaps, more so than any time in his young career.
“I’m tired of saying, ‘We’ve got to do this or we’ve got to do that,’” he said. “I kind of want our actions to speak for themselves.”
Griffin’s comments come on the heels of the second consecutive game where the Clippers (49-26) lacked the kind of urgency they feel is necessary to close out the season and jumpstart a playoff run. They lost by 17 points in Houston on Saturday and two nights later fell behind by 24 points to the Indiana Pacers before a group of reserves helped pull them to within a point with 2.2 seconds to go.
The team’s energy in the final 15 minutes of Monday’s 109-106 loss is precisely what Head Coach Vinny Del Negro wants to see from start to finish.
“It’s important that we play with that type of energy from the get-go,” Del Negro said. “But talking about it is one thing, you’ve got to go out and execute. And you’ve got to bring that type of commitment and energy from the start.”
The bench scored 60 of the Clippers’ 106 points against Indiana. And they were an astounding +72, as compared to the -64 that the starters put up. Griffin and Del Negro both said the way the bench played could be a wakeup call heading onto the final seven games.
“You’d love to sit here and say, ‘Yeah, it’s a wakeup call and we’re going to be completely different,’” Griffin said. “And that’s the idea and that’s what we’ve talked about and that’s what we want to do moving forward.
“We have to prove that.”
Less than a week ago it seemed as though the Clippers were proving that. They bounced back from an overtime loss in Dallas to win by double-digits in New Orleans and after a day off they played one of the higher-caliber games of the NBA regular season in a 104-102 loss to the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
Two losses later, the Clippers are two games back in the loss column behind both Denver and Memphis. Home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, which seemed a certainty as recently as mid-March, is now reliant on receiving assistance by the teams ahead of them in the standings.
“We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Ok, next game, next game,’” said Jamal Crawford, who had 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter of Monday’s rally. “Once you get behind one game [in the standings] it’s tough to crawl back.”
And much like Griffin said earlier in the day, Crawford is of the belief that talking about what needs to change is growing old.
“You can only talk so much, eventually, answers speak louder than words,” Crawford said. “We can talk and say we have this problem or we can say we’re this great. We just have to go out and prove it, either way.”
Matt Barnes played 27 minutes Monday despite a left ankle sprain that he sustained two days earlier in Houston. Del Negro said after practice that Barnes is “still sore” but the injury did not get any worse.
Chauncey Billups, who has played just 11 minutes in the last seven games, did not participate in practice and remains sidelined with a strained right groin.