CLIPPERS NOW IN 'THREE-GAME SERIES,' SAYS PAUL

Clippers fans at STAPLES Center

PLAYA VISTA – Chauncey Billups did not mince words in explaining how the Clippers can tip their first round series with the Memphis Grizzlies back in their favor.

“Compete harder,” Billups said after Monday’s practice at the team’s training center. “Box out, you’ve got to get to loose balls, you’ve just got to compete. It’s that simple.”

The simple things worked for the Clippers in Games 1 and 2 when they were aggressive, when they out-rebounded the Grizzlies, 87-61, and when they snatched a two-game advantage with a chance to take over the series in Memphis. That all changed with the scenery as it shifted from a sea of red to golden twirling towels.

The rebounding edge flipped (90-61 in favor of Memphis) and the hustle plays and loose balls did as well.

“They responded,” Del Negro said of the Grizzlies. “Now it’s our chance to respond. We have home court advantage. We have to protect that. But we can’t worry about anything other than tomorrow and taking care of that.”

For the Clippers, it started with a film session before practice Monday that lasted more than an hour.

“You watch film and identify the issues that lie ahead,” Billups said. “The second thing is you’ve got to execute. We didn’t do a good job of executing after Game 2.”

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said the team has failed to execute well since the fourth quarter of Game 2 when they allowed a nine-point lead evaporate and needed a runner by Chris Paul to secure a dramatic victory.

Paul’s shot at the time was catapulting the Clippers to Memphis with momentum, now they’re trying to rediscover the desperate energy they lost.

“We’ve done a lot of talking,” Grant Hill said. “The main thing is we just have to come out with a tremendous effort. The intensity level has to rise and you’ve got to play desperate.

“I thought we did a good job of that in the first two games. Game 3, [Memphis] responded well. I didn’t think our energy was good. The fight that we’ve had all season against Memphis was not there. And you kind of think, ‘Game 4, okay, we’ll come back and do a better job of that.’ And we didn’t.”

That, according to Del Negro, is what has been frustrating for the team in the two days since they’ve been back in Los Angeles.

“I think we were frustrated because we didn’t win the game,” Del Negro said. “And we didn’t put ourselves in a position to win the game. We’re four points, five points in both games in the fourth quarter and those are obviously attainable and we weren’t able to execute in the fourth which we’re usually pretty good at.”

Whether it was a lack of execution or an inability to match the Grizzlies’ intensity, it now a best-of-three series beginning Tuesday night at Staples Center, a place where the Clippers are 34-9 this season including two postseason wins.

“That’s why you fight so hard for home court advantage,” said Paul, who is leading the Clippers in scoring, assists and field goal percentage through four games in the series. “We have to come out with the same intensity in Game 5 that we did in 1 and 2 and understand that now it’s a three-game series. We’ve got to play hard and play the way we know we can.

“We don’t want to be that team that loses at home. We’re going to fight. We’re going to scrap.”