By BETH HARRIS, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Down 2-0 against the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers face the tough task of needing two victories at home to keep pace with the NBA's hottest team. Making things worse are injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin that have robbed the superstars of their effectiveness.
"The mood is still pretty good," Griffin said Friday after practice and a video session. "We're not completely out of this."
Game 3 on Saturday is particularly crucial for the Clippers because no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
"The next game is our Game 7," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We got to fight, we got to claw, we got to do whatever we can."
Paul's turnovers in the playoffs — 38 in nine games — are up significantly since he strained his right hip, while Griffin added a left hip injury in Game 2 to a sprained right knee that was already limiting his elevation to the rim.
"It's one of those nagging things," Griffin said about his hip. "Just kind of put that to the list of everything that we have right now. We just got to find a way to play through them and find a way to counteract them."
Bolstered by inspired play from their trio of 30-somethings, the Spurs have won 16 straight games, including a 6-0 mark in the playoffs. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have helped them to a 27-2 record in their last 29 games.
They beat the Clippers by double digits in each of the first two games, using their depth and 3-point shooting.
"We've shifted the offense a bit so it's a little more perimeter-oriented the last couple of years," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Timmy understands that, but he continues to rebound and play defense. We've gone to him quite a bit during these playoffs. He's a competitive son of gun and he's one hell of a player."
The Clippers will try to regroup with two straight games at home, where they were better than on the road in the regular season. They did lose Game 6 to the Grizzlies at Staples Center on May 11, the last time they were there, before winning Game 7 in Memphis to reach the Western Conference semifinals.
"We know Game 3 is going to be very, very hard," Parker said. "We should focus on that and not focus on the winning streak or what we're doing good. We know Saturday is going to be a long, long, long game. Very physical."
The unusual schedule of consecutive games on Saturday and Sunday will test the mettle of Paul and Griffin, along with the aging Duncan (36), Parker (30) and Ginobili (34).
"It's hard to find that fine line between conserving and pacing yourself, and you got to kind of give it your all every minute. I'm just kind of searching for that," said Griffin, who had 20 points and one rebound in Game 2.
"The best thing about the back-to-back is that they have to go, too. We're not put at any disadvantage that they aren't. It's going to be a big mental game Sunday coming off the second day. We got to be prepared and locked in."
Paul, who wasn't made available to the media on Friday, has been unwilling to admit his injury is affecting his play. But his numbers tell the story. He had 16 points and 13 turnovers in the first two games.
"He's a little tentative. He hasn't gotten his legs under him yet," Del Negro said. "Some of the turnovers are not like him. I expect him to bounce back well."
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