LOS ANGELES -- Remember three weeks ago, when the Los Angeles Clippers lost their last two games of the regular season and effectively handed over home-court advantage in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies?
They admitted then that they shot themselves in the collective foot, but that was mostly forgotten a few days ago, when the Clippers held a 3-1 lead in this series and looked to be probable candidates to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.
Now, suddenly, it looms very large, with the Clippers having dropped back-to-back contests, including one at home Friday night in a game they led by eight with eight minutes to play. Now, Sunday's 10 a.m. PT matchup in Memphis is an absolute must-win in a situation where the Clippers will be serious underdogs.
As he did when asked about losing home court at the end of the regular season, Chris Paul downplayed that part of Sunday's game when told of the ugly statistics for road teams in Game 7s.
"We've got to win," he said Friday. "This it. We could lose Game 5 and Game 6 and be OK, but Game 7 is going to be exciting. It's in Memphis, and we showed the ability to win there.
"I can't wait. You just leave it all out there. It is what it is."
The Clippers hand out printouts of selected quotes from their players and opponents after each game. They often skip over parts of the players' comments that could put the teams or the league in a bad light.
Their transcription of that Paul quote included two exclamation points, supposedly after he said "We've got to win!" and, "I can't wait!"
Watch the video here, beginning at the 0:47 mark. Does he seem happy or particularly enthusiastic when he says those phrases?
Not exactly. And not that he should be happy or enthusiastic, either. The Clippers essentially blew their prime opportunity to end the series at home in L.A. and shot themselves in their one, collective, enormous foot again.
"We should have closed the game out today," center DeAndre Jordan said Friday night. "We were at home and up late. But we didn't. And now we have to go back to their home court and try to win one."
Paul and Jordan are, admittedly, right -- the Clippers can win in Memphis. They showed that in Game 1 and earned the right to say that.
But, still, this is not an ideal position in which to be. Just like Kenyon Martin said three weeks ago when the Clippers' blew the final two games of the regular season, they shot themselves in the foot, but they still have a chance to revoke the bullets, essentially.
We'll know in a little more than 36 hours whether or not they're able to.