LOS ANGELES -- It seems like so long ago now that the Clippers put together their most memorable performance of the 2012 playoffs, a massive first-round comeback in which they pulled out an improbable 99-98 Game 1 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Three weeks ago today, the Clips did the unthinkable in Memphis, coming back from 27 points down and 21 at the end of three quarters to upset the Grizzlies. That victory buoyed L.A. into a series win and propelled them into a second-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, which has been decidedly less competitive.
Now, down 3-0 to the Spurs after Saturday's demoralizing come-from-ahead loss, the Clippers will essentially have to repeat their Memphis miracle for four straight games to stave off elimination.
That process begins Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Staples Center, where Game 4 is set to tip off between the two teams -- assuming the earlier Los Angeles Kings' hockey game doesn't go into overtime and cause a conflict.
The sense of urgency the Clippers displayed in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and throughout Game 7 is exactly the same sort of energy they need for Game 4. Basically, the entire roster has to be desperate to win, or the Clippers are going to get swept.
"We have to look at this like we did Game 7," said Clippers reserve guard Nick Young, who averaged 16 points in his team's two wins in Memphis. "Nobody wants to be in this situation, but we made it hard on ourselves.
"We're desperate now. It's win or go home."
To expect the Clippers to win four straight against a San Antonio team that hasn't even lost four games in the last 10 weeks seems unreasonable. But the Clips could still put up a fight, starting with Game 4. A win or two would add serious credence to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin's first playoff trip as a duo and give Vinny Del Negro more offseason staying power.
To to that, the Clippers can't jump out to another early double-digit lead like they did Saturday and expect that it'll hold up for 30 or 40 more minutes.
"We were desperate in Game 7 in Memphis, and you saw how we came out and played," Paul said after Saturday's game. "Hopefully we can be the best for the next four games."
After Saturday's game, Griffin just wanted to focus on being the best for the next full game. He said the Clippers can't get out-executed and out-efforted by the Spurs again in the later parts of Sunday's game.
"We have to find a way to not necessarily pace ourselves, but to at least make sure we have enough left in the tank for the second half," he said.
That's easier said than done, especially for a banged-up team going against Gregg Popovich's well-rested and well-coached squad.