The Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs are tied 2-2 in their first-round playoff series, and the Clippers know that if they don't come out playing their best basketball in Game 5 on Tuesday, they're going to be in trouble.
"It's just a hard series," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Monday. "It's two very good basketball teams. They're evenly matched."
The Spurs won Game 3 on Friday, 100-73. The Clippers used that embarrassment to fuel a 114-105 victory in Game 4.
Matt Barnes was asked Monday whether the Clippers will find that same intensity in Game 5. The small forward didn't hesitate in his response.
"We know we'll get beat by 30 if we don't," Barnes said. "This is a team that, I think Kenny Smith said it best, they play at [a level] 8 consistently, sometimes a 9, so if we don't match that and go above it, we're going to lose. And if you don't play a complete team game, you're going to get blown out. I think we finally realize that now."
Blake Griffin said the Clippers don't have to conjure up mental motivation because Game 5 is, in a way, a must-win. After all, the Clippers don't want to go down 3-2, then face an elimination game in San Antonio.
"You can't really afford to drop that sense of desperation or sense of urgency, especially this late in the series," Griffin said.
The Spurs have won five NBA championships, and the Clippers have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. Rivers said that in Tuesday's game the Clippers need exceed their level of play in Game 4, not just match it.
"We have to play even better, I really believe that," Rivers said. "They're going to."