Clippers Coach Doc Rivers didn't mince words when talking about the team's upcoming game.
"Game 6 is extremely important," Rivers said in a conference call Wednesday.
The Clippers have a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven, second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. If they win Game 6 on Thursday at Staples Center, they will advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in their 45-year franchise history. If they lose, they will play a winner-takes-all Game 7 in Houston on Sunday.
The Clippers had a chance to close out the series Tuesday, when they entered Game 5 with a 3-1 series advantage over the Rockets. Instead they lost by 21 points, 124-103. In that game, the Rockets outscored the Clippers in points in the paint, 64-46, and in fast-break points, 17-3. The Rockets outshot the Clippers from the field, 54.1% to 41.8%, and outrebounded them, 58-39.
Rivers said that the players were disappointed with how they played, and most of them re-watched Game 5 on the plane ride home from Houston late Tuesday evening. He said close-out games are always the most difficult games to win.
"One reason is the other team doesn't want to go home," Rivers said. "I think people forget that...I think that's part of it, and then the other part is the human nature. When you have a game in the bank, sometimes you don't play with urgency, and the fight, and the desperation that you should. You have to do that every playoff game, you just can't pick and choose."
What Rivers is criticizing in the playoffs actually proved to him during the regular season just how good his team could be.
"What stood out to me is during the middle of the year, and even early in the year, this team did pick and choose, and I didn't like it, but the games they chose were pretty good games," Rivers said. "That told me that this team has a chance."
The Clippers will go into Game 6 slightly banged up, but the good news for the team is that point guard Chris Paul (left hamstring strain) will no longer be restricted. He played nearly 35 minutes in Game 5, finishing with 22 points and 10 assists. Rivers says there will be no minute restrictions for Paul in Game 6.
Austin Rivers suffered a hip pointer in Tuesday's game and Rivers said that Clippers' trainer Jasen Powell will give him an update on his son Wednesday.
"He was more concerned about today than he was yesterday because it's a hip pointer," Rivers said.
Rivers added that Matt Barnes' injuries (ankle and shoulder) are most likely minor.
The Clippers have the day off Wednesday, and Rivers said he expects his team to come out with the proper intensity come Thursday.