LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers find themselves in an unenviable position coming into Game 2 tonight against the Utah Jazz.
After Los Angeles won seven consecutive games to end the regular season in order to secure home-court advantage in the first round, the Jazz snatched it away with a Joe Johnson buzzer-beater that gave them a 97-95 win on Saturday.
Now, the Clippers face a must-win situation if they want to avoid going down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Clippers forward Marreese Speights said at Monday’s practice that the team will need to “go out there and play Clippers basketball” in order to come away with a 1-1 split.
“We’re not really worrying about going out there and losing because that’s gonna be hard for us to do,” Speights said. “We’re gonna go out there and play hard and play smarter than we did in Game 1.”
Utah managed to slow down the Clippers’ fourth-ranked offense and keep itself within striking distance throughout the game, giving Johnson the opportunity to sink his all-time-leading eighth career buzzer-beating shot. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the team simply needs to play better in Game 2.
“We can’t turn the ball over, we have to have more possessions and we have to play at a better pace,” Rivers said.
One adjustment the Clippers want to make is getting J.J. Redick easier looks at the basket. Redick attempted only six shots Saturday and scored seven points in 27 minutes.
Rivers said he doesn’t worry about Redick getting shots because when teams focus attention to him, his teammates usually reap the benefits. But that didn’t happen in Game 1, Rivers said.
“I thought we spent too much time trying to get J.J. going, quite honestly,” Rivers said. “J.J.’s gonna get going. We’re gonna get him shots. But when we’re not getting him shots, we need to be getting layups and other shots, and we didn’t do either one.”
Chris Paul said the team will “definitely” have to do more to get Redick more shots.
“J.J. is our best shooter on our team,” Paul said. “That’s our job as a team and even my job as a point guard to try to find him more open looks. We’ll try to do that.”
Jazz guard Joe Ingles drew the main assignment of guarding Redick on Saturday. He said Sunday that when guarding Redick, he tries to make his shots tough and play as physically as possible.
“Just keep chasing. Chasing, chasing, chasing,” Ingles said of the key to defending Redick. “He’s tough to guard. He doesn’t stop.”
Johnson said he expects the Clippers to come out tonight with a sense of “desperation (and) urgency.”
“I feel like we’re gonna get a great Clippers team in Game 2,” Johnson said.
To combat that hungry Clippers team, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said Utah will have to take care of the ball.
“We can’t help their pace by turning the ball over,” Snyder said. “We can’t help transition by having lapses.”
Paul echoed Rivers’ sentiment that the Clippers need to improve all aspects of their game if they want to go into Utah tied 1-1.
“Our defense has to be better, our pace, our tempo – everything has to be better,” Paul said. “Had we won that game, we still would’ve needed to do things better.”
Game 2 is at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.