Chris Paul, left, Caron Butler and Blake Griffin sit on the bench during… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )
SAN ANTONIO – After Thursday night's 105-88 loss to the Spurs, Clippers players said that they understand the task ahead.
Down 2-0 in their playoff series with San Antonio, they acknowledged that they need to win their next two games at home. History suggests they especially need to win Game 3 on Saturday, as no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
But after back-to-back 16- and 17-point losses, getting wins in Los Angeles may be easier said than done.
"They did what they're supposed to do," Clippers forward Caron Butler said in reference to the Spurs. "They won two games at home. Now we got to do what we're supposed to do. We got to win Game 3 and obviously Game 4 is back to back, so it's a challenge and we're up to it."
Just how up to it they are will greatly depend on how healthy the Clippers' two superstars feel come Saturday. Guard Chris Paul has scored only 16 points and committed 13 turnovers in the first two games of the series as he continues to nurse a strained right hip. Meanwhile, Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said that forward Blake Griffin "looked a lot better" Thursday, despite sustaining a left hip injury in additional to his already sprained right knee.
"We just got to get back home and get our legs under us a little bit," Del Negro said. "Hopefully Chris and Blake will feel a little bit better.
"We have to regroup in front of our home crowd, get our energy up and execute a little bit better."
For their part, Spurs players said they are not expecting an easy time of it in Los Angeles. Guard Manu Ginobili called the Clippers "a great team" and continued praising their grit after the game Thursday. His fellow backcourt star Tony Parker added that he thinks Game 3 will be "very hard."
"We know that Saturday is going to be a long, long game and very physical," Parker said.
Both teams will have a day to rest and prepare on Friday, and then will have to play back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday. The unusual schedule will test the health of Griffin and Paul, and add at least a little bit of strain to Spurs veterans like 36-year-old Tim Duncan and the 34-year-old Ginobili.
If the Spurs can manage a split in L.A., they would have an opportunity to end the series back at home on Tuesday. Consequently, Ginobili said the onus is actually on his team to "stay humble" and "keep working hard."
"We just have to go there and try and grab one now," Ginobili said.