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Clippers are up, but coach wants them to play as if they're down

Clippers lead Grizzlies, 2-0, in first round of playoffs as series shifts to Memphis. Coach Vinny Del Negro says, 'We have to go with a mind-set that we have to play with a desperation and urgency.'

April 23, 2013|By Broderick Turner
  • Chris Paul and Tony Allen get tied up fighting for possession of the ball during the Clippers' victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, 93-91, to grab a 2-0 lead in the series.
Chris Paul and Tony Allen get tied up fighting for possession of the ball… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Play harder and play better. Be more physical and smarter. Raise the level of play even higher.

That's what Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro is asking of his team when it travels to Memphis to play the Grizzlies in the next two Western Conference playoff games.

"If we grow in that direction," Del Negro said, "then our chances get better."

The Clippers won both games at Staples Center, and lead the Grizzlies in their best-of-seven series, 2-0. Now the Clippers will play Games 3 (Thursday night) and 4 (Saturday) at the FedEx Forum.

But it's not as if the Clippers haven't had some success in Memphis.

The Clippers won both games they played there during the regular season, including one 10 days ago that helped give them home-court advantage.

The Clippers also won two games in Memphis during an epic seven-game, first-round playoff series last season, winning Game 1 by coming back from 27 points down and winning a Game 7 against high odds.

Including the playoffs, the Clippers have now won their last three games in Memphis.

"I think you just have to impose your will in what you're trying to do out there," Del Negro said. "We have to go in with the mind-set that we're down. We have to go with a mind-set that we have to play with a desperation and urgency and match the physicality of the game.

"It'll come down to executing and making plays as always. We know what's at stake. We just played there recently. We played there last year in the playoffs so we should be very familiar with the situation."

Del Negro, whose team did not practice Tuesday, knows it won't be easy.

The Grizzlies were 32-9 at home in the regular season.

"There's [at least] two more games left, and it's a long series," Memphis guard Tony Allen said after Monday night's game. "We've just got to go home and take care of business and lay it all on the line. They did what they were supposed to do and win two games. Now we've got to go home and take care of our home court."

Guard heavy

It has been difficult for Del Negro to find playing time for all of his guards.

In the first two games, he's used four guards and has limited some of their minutes.

Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups start in the back court and Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe come off the bench.

Then there is Willie Green, who started 60 regular-season games while Billups dealt with an assortment of injuries. Green has played two minutes in the series against the Grizzlies.

"Is it always perfect? No," Del Negro said. "Do guys want to play more? Of course. Do guys get a little frustrated? Yeah, because they're competitive. As long as everyone keeps it in their mind that's what's best for the team, and the bottom line is we want to win the games. So guys that I feel give us the best chance will be out there.

"It's nothing personal. It's about winning the game."

One way Del Negro has tried to give his guards playing time is by employing a three-guard lineup at times.

He's had Paul, Bledsoe and Billups play together; Del Negro also has used Paul, Bledsoe and Crawford together on the court.

Del Negro likes having Bledsoe defending Memphis point guard Mike Conley, because it lessens the amount of energy Paul must exert on defense.

"I don't think you can go with that long," Del Negro said, "but in stretches, it's been effective for us at times. We'll pick our spots there."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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