Turiaf, Barnes going for steal

MEMPHIS – Matt Barnes was speaking out of frustration, Lamar Odom from experience and Chris Paul from what sounded like a mixture of the two.

When the Clippers left Los Angeles five days ago bound for Memphis, they talked about getting “greedy.” They had a chance to return to California without the Grizzlies joining them.

But after two games that resembled very little of what made them successful in building a 2-0 series lead, the Clippers head home tied with what could be a pivotal Game 5 staring at them Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Their five-day trip to Memphis culminated with a 104-83 loss Saturday evening and left Barnes, Odom, Paul and others speaking out about what ails a team that was once firmly in command of the series.

“They’ve been punking us, basically,” Barnes said with a fervor in his voice that he usually reserves for on-court interactions. “If we keep playing like this we’re going to be home next week that’s the bottom line. From top to bottom, our team has been punked. It doesn’t have anything to do with a scouting report or adjustments. If we don’t start playing like men, we’re going to be sitting on a beach next week.”

It’s something that seemed unfathomable after the first two games when the Clippers were energetic and thrived as the aggressors. They won the rebounding edge in both games, got balanced offensive production and pushed the right buttons when necessary. All of that has seemingly fallen by the wayside. They shot 40.0% in two games, have been limited in transition, committed 56 fouls and have not dictated the terms of either game since.

Barnes explained later on Saturday that he was frustrated by the way the last two games unfolded. Odom, Barnes’ fellow member of the high-scoring Clippers bench, which accounted for 43 points in Game 4, agreed.

“Everybody’s got a different way to put,” Odom said. “Matt’s one of our emotional leaders on this team. He’s right. We have to remain together. Synergy is important.”

Asked if there is any concern that the team has to worry about sticking together at such a late juncture in the season, Odom elaborated: “There’s nothing wrong with that. Basically, teams that lose playoff games, lose a certain way, say the same thing. We’ll get it together, go back home and play well.”

He’s right. Last season, after the Grizzlies evened their first-round series with a Game 2 victory in Memphis, several Clippers used the word “punked” to describe how the game unfolded. They responded at home with consecutive victories. The same could apply this year.  

“This is why we worked so hard to get home court advantage,” Chauncey Billups said. “[It is a] three-game series now. Obviously, two games in L.A. if it goes that far, so this is what we worked so hard for most of the season. Here it is.”

And there it could go, if the Clippers don’t figure out a way to control Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Billups said the Grizzlies’ “big boys” set the tone in the last two games after being somewhat neutralized in L.A. They combined for 48 points and 22 rebounds in Game 4.

Blake Griffin, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds Saturday, has grappled with Randolph throughout the last two postseasons said the Clippers have to get back to being aggressive early. “We just have to be the more aggressive team right from the beginning. Not take the first hit, but be the first hit metaphorically, and be aggressive. That’s our mindset going into the next game.”

Sitting at the podium in the bowels of FedEx Forum, Paul said. “Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives, and I think we have to approach it that way. The refs are not going to give us nothing. The other team is not going to lie down, and we have to come out and be ready.”

And if they aren’t, as Barnes suggested, summer could start sooner than anyone anticipated.