LOS ANGELES – Over the years the Clippers have played without their superstars, won games on the road in the postseason and sometimes, like this year, needed to do both.
So, forgive the Clippers if they’re not quite ready to accept the widely held belief that they’re cooked without Blake Griffin, trailing three games to two in a best-of-7 series against a disciplined and likable Jazz team, heading into a hostile environment.
“I’m not quitting because we’re going to Utah,” Austin Rivers said. “I don’t give a (expletive) who we play, where we play or how loud the damn fans are. We’re coming to win. That’s it.”
Rivers can always be counted on for that kind of blunt, rally-the-troops sentiment. But he wasn’t alone Tuesday night.
Chris Paul’s assessment went viral online more for the awkward question that preceded it – “Will the Clippers be back here Sunday playing a Game 7” – but he was no less firm than Rivers on the matter.
“What you think?” he asked. “I’m on the team. What you want me to say, ‘No, it’s over?’ That’s what you want to hear? Yes.”
The notion of the Clippers extending this series, and possibly advancing to a second-round matchup with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, often feels like delaying the inevitable.
Without Griffin, the Clippers are not positioned to make even a surprise run at a championship, and the question of who will be back to take another swing next season weighs heavy on those in the locker room, their fans and those who cover the league.
But since the Clippers are here, why not try to win the games in front of them?
This team is basing much of its confidence on a similar situation in 2015, when they fell behind 3-2 in the first round to the defending champion Spurs, stole Game 6 on the road in San Antonio and eventually won the series in a thrilling Game 7.
“Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of guys in the locker room who had to do this a couple years ago,” Chris Paul said…