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Clippers must turn tide in Memphis or be washed out of playoffs

As Clippers face a must-win Game 6 in Memphis, Chris Paul says he'll be ready Friday despite a bruised thumb. Blake Griffin hopes to play. He says his sprained ankle feels better.

May 03, 2013|By Broderick Turner

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Win or go home.

It's the slogan for the NBA during the playoffs and it now applies to the Clippers.

The reeling Clippers must beat the surging Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, on the road, in Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series or L.A.'s season is over.

If the Clippers find a way to win — something they haven't done in the last three games after winning the first two in this best-of-seven series — Game 7 would be Sunday at Staples Center.

But winning Friday seems to be a tall order for the Clippers, on several fronts.

Blake Griffin said his sprained right ankle has been "fluctuating" between being painful and showing some improvement, leaving his status uncertain for Game 6.

Chris Paul said his bruised left thumb is feeling better and promised, "I'll be ready" to play Friday.

The Clippers have played poorly this series in Memphis, where they lost Games 3 and 4 by an average of 16.5 points.

"Down 3 to 2, going into a hostile environment, you see what you're made of," Paul said after practice on Thursday. "It's what the playoffs are for and that's why we get the chance to correct things."

Griffin said he wants to play if the team's training staff and coaches are all "on board with that." He got treatment Thursday on his ankle but didn't practice.

He said his ankle felt better Thursday.

"If I'm able to go and I'm able to help us, it's really my job to play," Griffin said. "I owe it to my teammates. If I make the injury worse, there's no more season left anyway, so I'll have a lot of time to rest and a lot of time to do it.

"So, as long as I can help my teammates, help us, then I'm going to play. That's really the only way I'm looking at it. I'm not worried about the future right now."

The Clippers say they have made many adjustments during the series, including trying a zone defense and double-teams on Memphis' dominating big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

But Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro needs more help from starters Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan, who have scored a combined 16 points, on 25.9% shooting, in the last two games.

Billups, the veteran guard who has been called "Mr. Big Shot" for his ability to deliver in the clutch, must contribute more than the 6.6 points on 31.3% shooting he has averaged in the series.

And the Clippers need the 33-year-old Butler to provide more than the 7.4 points he has averaged.

That's also true for Jordan, the team's young center, who must be more active on defense to slow Gasol and Randolph. And with Griffin's injury, the team needs additional offense and rebounding, certainly more than the 3.4 points and 6.8 rebounds Jordan has averaged so far.

"It's on everybody," Del Negro said.

The Clippers won Game 7 in Memphis to take last year's first-round series.

Leading up to this playoff series, they won both regular-season games played in Memphis. The second of those wins, on the final weekend of the season, helped the Clippers secure home-court advantage. That's something they are clinging to.

"It's going to take a lot of fight," Paul said. "Playing there on the road has been tough, but we have shown the ability to win there during the regular season and now we've got to do it."

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