PLAYA VISTA – They have not panicked, nor have they flung themselves into desperation mode. If the Clippers seemed remarkably at peace the morning after their stunning 98-96 loss in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against Utah, it’s for one simple reason.
They’ve been here before.
“A lot of guys have played enough playoff games to know it’s truly a series,” Blake Griffin said Sunday. “Everybody says that. But we’ve been up 2-0 several times and lost a series (to Portland last year). We’ve been up 3-1 and lost a series (to Houston in 2015). We’ve lost a first game and won a series (Golden State, 2014). So it doesn’t really matter, you know?”
That does not change the fact that the Clippers are the team at a disadvantage after entering the postseason as the league’s hottest outfit, facing an opponent whose most imposing player, center Rudy Gobert, suffered an injury 11 seconds into the series.
“(Coach) Doc (Rivers) talks about being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling being down in any series.”
The Clippers lost Saturday when veteran Joe Johnson drove past Jamal Crawford and scored at the final buzzer moments after Chris Paul knotted the score with a driving shot of his own with 13.1 seconds left.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at Staples Center, before the series shifts to the raucous confines of Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City for two games.
By Easter morning, the Clippers were ready to move on from their stunning loss.
“Nobody died,” Redick said. “No one has cancer that I know of. It’s the playoffs, you’re not going to go 16-0, you move to the next game, you make your adjustments, you try to win the next one. There’s no grieving going on.”
The Clippers spent Sunday focused on improving their help defense, the very thing that allowed Johnson to score 21 points. On the last play, Johnson essentially had a clear path to the basket, with…