LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers have their backs against the wall.
After losing 96-92 at home Tuesday against the Utah Jazz, the Clippers are just one loss away from their playoff run ending in the first round. But many of the players on the team have been here before.
When J.J. Redick was in his third year playing for the Orlando Magic in 2009, he found himself on the wrong end of a 3-2 hole against the Boston Celtics, who had won the NBA title the previous year. But the Magic rebounded in Game 6, won Game 7 in Boston and went all the way to the NBA Finals that year.
Jamal Crawford has a similar experience. When he played for Atlanta in 2010, the Hawks won the first two games of their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, but lost the next three. The Hawks won the series by claiming the next two games.
And just two seasons ago, these same Clippers were down 3-2 to the San Antonio Spurs and still managed to pull out the series in the seventh and final game.
“I think the mentality is just you can’t go up to Utah to win two games,” Redick said Thursday at practice regarding the team’s mentality going into Game 6 tonight in Utah. “We only have to win one game (today). That’s all we have to do. … The task of winning one game is a little less daunting than the task of winning two games at once.”
Redick and Crawford were on that 2015 Clippers team, along with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin. Although, Griffin’s foot injury in Game 3 forced him out of this year’s playoffs.
But history is stacked against the Clippers. A team up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series boasts an all-time record of 244-45, a winning percentage of 84.4.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, however, downplayed the statistic Thursday.
“Guys don’t think about that crap,” Rivers said emphatically. “They really don’t.”
For the Jazz, tonight’s game is like their Game 7. They want to close out the series and not give the Clippers a chance to come home Sunday and take the series.
“For us, we have to treat this one as like a must-win,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said after Tuesday’s game. “We want to close it out in Salt Lake (City). We definitely don’t wanna come back here for Game 7.”
Through five games, the Clippers and Jazz have each scored 495 points, an average of 99 points per game. With the series that close, Rivers said the Clippers have to find a way to dictate their pace and minimize their mental errors on defense.
“For us, it’s simple,” Rivers said.
Paul knows the Jazz will come into tonight’s game beaming with energy and that the crowd will be buzzing from the opening tip. But he remembered the San Antonio series in 2015 and said he’ll draw on the composure it took then to win in a hostile environment and use it against Utah.
“We’re gonna have to come out ready,” Paul said.
Game 6 is tonight in Utah at 7:30 p.m.