PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – The Clippers didn’t spend Monday scratching their heads at practice. They know exactly what they need to do to regain control of their first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
More energy. More rebounding. A lot more rebounding.
It’s that simple. The Clippers allowed the Grizzlies to tie up their best-of-seven series at two games apiece because they didn’t have enough of either. But they can still take a 3-2 lead by winning Game 5 Tuesday night at Staples Center.
“It really comes down to rebounding the basketball, second-chance points, not turning it over and making plays in the fourth quarter,” coach Vinny Del Negro said.
The series was expected to be tight, and it has been, but it’s also been a tale of two teams playing their best on their home courts. The Clippers grabbed home-court advantage in the regular season, and it could come in handy.
“That’s why you work so hard for home court,” guard Chauncey Billups said. “If we were facing this situation and we had two games left in Memphis and one at home, then obviously the pressure would be on us. But the pressure is not on us.”
Even so, the Clippers will face some pressure trying to stop the Grizzlies’ momentum, which they built with victories in Games 3 and 4 at FedEx Forum.
Consider how differently the first four games turned out statistically:
“We’ve got to come out with more energy,” said Chris Paul, who scored 47 points in the first two games but was held to 27 in the two losses at Memphis. “We won two games at home and they won two games at home. That’s why you fight so hard for home-court advantage.
“We have to come out with the same intensity in Game 5 that we did in Games 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.”
The Clippers understand they’ll need to win the game on the backboards, keeping Memphis’ big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, off the glass so they grab rebounds and get out quickly in transition. That’s the style of play that works best for them.
“They’re like two old-school big guys,” Paul said. “They bang and different things like that. It’s going to take a collective unit, all of us. We can’t just put it on our big guys. Our guards have got to get in there and bang with them, and then we’ve got to run them.”
Del Negro offered the same analysis, saying, “We’ve got to rebound as a committee. It’s not just the big guys — it’s everybody. The big guys have got to get those guys off the glass if they have to face-guard them or whatever, and then our guards have got to get in there and rebound as well.”
But a lot of responsibility will still fall to Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and forward Blake Griffin, who will have to box out Randolph on rebounds and prevent Gasol from getting easy looks at the basket. Randolph averaged 25.5 points and 10 rebounds in his team’s victories; Gasol averaged 20 points and 10.5 rebounds and hurt the Clippers with his soft outside jumpers.
If the Clippers can slow them down, force the other players on the court to take shots and get out quickly on the fast-break, they believe they can return to Memphis on Friday with a chance to close out the series.
“We don’t want to be the team that loses at home,” Paul said. “We’re going to fight, we’re going to scrap, we’re going to try and play our game and come home with a win.”