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Griffin’s Ankle Sprain a Danger to Clippers
Posted By Eric Pincus On May 2, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Clippers are suddenly in danger of seeing their franchise-best 56-26 season end in Memphis on Friday.
After taking a 2-0 series lead over the Grizzlies, the Clippers didn’t come through on the road. When they looked to hold home court in Game 5, a fluke accident in practice the day before reduced All-Star forward Blake Griffin to a shell of himself. The Clippers dropped Tuesday’s Game 5, 103-93, with Griffin sitting out the fourth quarter.
“I kept being optimistic,” Griffin said. “Our training staff did a great job giving me treatment. We were scrimmaging. I jumped up to make a pass and landed on someone’s foot. I’ve never had a high-ankle sprain before. Normally, I can go the next day or a couple of days after.”
The team is hopeful he can go on Friday with two days off, but Griffin was noticeably downbeat as he limped out of the locker room. Words like “grapefruit-sized” and “24-hour treatment” were bandied about the locker room.
As the Grizzlies gained confidence in their defense and found scoring opportunities against the Clippers, Los Angeles looked like a one-man team on the shoulders of Chris Paul.
“I am disappointed with myself,” Paul said after leading all scorers in Game 5 with 35 points. “It all starts with me and it’s do or die in Memphis.”
That’s Paul’s consistent response to any Clippers loss, he owns the blame despite any logic. Another concern for the team, Paul’s right hand was mummified in wraps as he gave his postgame remarks.
“I’m cool, I’m good,” Paul said. “I hit myself.”
Paul is expected to play through a thumb injury but what if he’s not himself? What if Griffin doesn’t play or is limited? The Clippers may be in serious trouble.
“It has to be about committee. You cannot replace Blake with one person,” Paul said. “We may have to go small and open the court up and stop the big guys from going to the basket. If we can get Marc [Gasol] out of the lane; every time he comes down and stands in the lane.”
Gasol was a problem for the Clippers with 21 points despite playing through foul trouble. Against Los Angeles, he’s living up to his Defensive Player of the Year award.
Zach Randolph was just too good against a hampered Griffin (and anyone else the Clippers threw against him like Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, DeAndre Jordan and Lamar Odom), finishing with 25 points and 11 boards. Someone will need to contribute in place of (or in support of) Griffin.
Mike Conley got to the line 12 times, finishing with 20 points but the outside shot of Tayshaun Prince seemed to be the difference. Prince, a champion with the Detroit Pistons, hit a long jumper almost every time the Clippers threatened.
The Grizzlies haven’t shot the ball particularly well this year. If Prince is hitting, that changes who they are as a team.
“Our focus was great the last couple of games, hopefully we can maintain it,” Prince said. “Randolph helped us out tremendously with some big-time buckets that kind of opened up everything. When he did that, that’s what allowed me to get some open looks.”
The Clippers got 15 points from Jamal Crawford, but he struggled to score until late in the game.
“We had a golden opportunity, but we let it slip away,” Crawford said. “We went there before and won. I think we did the same thing to get home-court advantage.”
The Clippers locked in home-court advantage on April 13 in Memphis with a 91-87 victory, but now they need to win on the road with Griffin hobbled.
“It’s tough,” Crawford said. “Blake is such a big piece of what we do.”
If the Clippers pull out the victory on Friday, they’ll host Game 7 on Sunday. A loss for the Clippers could end the Vinny Del Negro era since the team’s coach is in the final year of his contract.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Randolph said. “We’ve still gone one game on Friday. We need to come in and focus and try to finish our business.”
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