Clippers feel pain as they stumble into Game 7
LOS ANGELES – Blake Griffin sat in front of his locker and stared down at the box score floating in the cold tub below him. His knees were wrapped in ice, his feet were submerged in the tub and the stat sheet told the chilling truth: The Los Angeles Clippers once again wasted an opportunity to close out the Memphis Grizzlies in a 90-88 loss where Griffin and All-Star point guard Chris Paul had hardly resembled themselves.
The Clippers are now headed for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday in Memphis and one question hung over them as they trudged out of the Staples Center late Friday. With less than 36 hours before tipoff, do Paul and Griffin have enough time to recover?
“It’s tough, but nobody is at 100 percent this time of the season,” Paul said. “I tried to suck it up and so did Blake.”
Neither player had the type of impact they'd made in the series' first four games when the Clippers took a commanding 3-1 lead, especially Paul. He came into Friday averaging 22.6 points, but scored 11 before fouling out.
The Clippers' problems began in Game 5 when Paul, who'd began the season with a sore groin, strained his right hip. Griffin also hyperextended his left knee – the same knee he had surgically repaired when he missed all of his first NBA season.
After Wednesday's loss, the Clippers took a four-hour flight back to L.A., arriving early Thursday morning. Paul went home, slept for a little bit then went to the Clippers’ training facility where he spent more than 12 hours getting treatment for his injury.
“All day, all day, all day," Paul said. "I did everything you could possibly do."
[Also: Kobe Bryant losing patience with Lakers teammates]
An MRI revealed Griffin's knee had no structural damage. Griffin joined Paul in the Clippers' training room, received a deep-tissue massage and iced his knee overnight. He also received a shot to help ease the pain.
The Grizzlies showed no pity for Griffin and Paul.
“People get hurt. People get dinged up," said Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, who missed last season's playoffs because of a shoulder injury. "That’s the name of the game. You choose to watch or play. That’s a chance you take."
Griffin lacked his usual explosiveness and instead looked tentative, opting to pass the ball or drive for a layup. He threw down a dunk in the third quarter, but barely got the ball over the rim. He finished with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists. He dove to the court in the third quarter to corral the ball and start a fast-break dunk by DeAndre Jordan, but grimaced as he slowly rose to his feet and walked to the bench.
"The pain kind of goes away,” Griffin said. “I took a shot before the game, so the pain is not really that bad. It is just kind of something to deal with because it doesn’t feel 100 percent."
[Also: Pizza and beer with Metta World Peace for Game 5]
Paul admitted he favored his own injury. His struggles were most evident in the fourth quarter when he scored just one point and had three fouls and two turnovers to no assists. The Clippers wasted an eight-point lead, and Paul wasn't in position to save them.
While the Clippers have forwards Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin to help relieve Griffin, the team is much more reliant on Paul's do-everything skills.
"We still had an opportunity to win," Paul said. "This is not a one-man team. I tried to help as much as possible."
The Clippers are now headed back to Memphis, which promises to have a raucous crowd awaiting them at FedEx Forum. Paul said he and Griffin will be ready.
"We’re both playing Sunday," Paul said. "We can’t hold nothing back."
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