All is not lost. The Clippers have at least two more games to revive themselves, even if it did feel as if theirs was a season on the brink after they became Texas toast in their latest playoff setback.
The Clippers staged what was probably their worst performance of the season in Game 3 of their first-round series only two days after coughing up a game they should have won in an overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs technically hold a two-games-to-one lead in a seven-game series that resumes with Game 4 on Sunday afternoon at the AT&T Center, though it seemed as if their advantage was considerably larger considering the Clippers have only reinforced their reputation for playoff stumbles.
"I don't think it's as bad as you guys think it is," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers told a group of reporters gathered around him Saturday afternoon outside a ballroom at the team hotel. "I think our guys aren't running around in a dark closet today."
It would be easy to run and hide after the way the Clippers played during their 27-point loss in Game 3.
Chris Paul had more turnovers than assists for the first time all season. Jamal Crawford made one of 11 shots. Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick continued to go from X factors to nonfactors. Blake Griffin needed 15 shots to score 14 points. DeAndre Jordan collected eight rebounds, his first game in single digits in 2 1/2 months.
Redick, a veteran of nine playoff appearances in as many NBA seasons, said it was time for the Clippers to embrace the dreaded D-word.
"For us, in this situation, you have to play with a sense of desperation," Redick said. "You never want to go down 3-1 and be facing elimination in three straight games. That's tough to overcome. Whatever our game plan is, whatever Xs and O's we have [Sunday], the most important thing is just to play with desperation."
The Clippers lacked urgency from the tipoff of Game 3, scoring 16 points in the first quarter. The NBA's most efficient offense in the regular season then "topped" that by managing only 11 points in the third quarter.
Rivers said his team moved the ball from one side of the court to the other only once in the third quarter, and it wasn't immediately clear if he was kidding.
"Some of the guys, we were talking [Friday] night after the game, and we were like, 'How are we not being able to score?' " wondered Redick, who has made only 10 of 32 shots (31.3%) in the series.
Part of it could be attributed to the long, probing arms of San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and the quick feet of teammate Danny Green. The Spurs' perimeter defenders have made life miserable for Paul and Redick, disrupting the flow of the Clippers' offense.
Rivers said the Spurs were the more physical team, their force adding some velocity to their aging legs. San Antonio also won in a rout despite its Big Three more closely resembling a Zero Point Three, with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combining for a playoff record low 12 points.
The Clippers did not practice Saturday, sticking to the plan Rivers said was always in place. Players did some individual shooting and tried not to hit themselves in the foot for a second consecutive day.
"The one thing I think is we all make mistakes. We can't overdo this," Rivers said. "I don't have a new offense I'm going to come up with. We're going to play with our offense again. We have to do it better."
Rivers said he would not unveil any special motivational ploys for a team that appeared in need of psychological repair. Several players sat at their lockers with blank stares late Friday night while reserve forward Glen Davis bent over and held his head in his hands for several minutes.
"Speeches are so overdone," Rivers said. "It's more about the collective soul. It's not one guy, not one player on the floor that's going to change us. It's got to be done collectively, and it's got to be done in the team way."
Crawford acknowledged it felt as if the Clippers had been largely written off after the way they had dropped the last two games. Then again, Crawford said, the Clippers had been widely dismissed even before the start of their series against the defending NBA champions.
"It may feel worse just because of the way it happened the last two games," Crawford said, "but in reality it is only 2-1 and if we win [Sunday], that's exactly what we came down here for, to get a split, and it's 2-2."