The Los Angeles Clippers lost much more than a game vs. a physical Memphis Grizzlies team. They may have lost their “swag” as their injury situation has become more and more pronounced. Could this fun-loving and tight Clipper Team be cursed? Already playing without Chauncey Billups and playing with a banged up and limited Caron Butler (fractured left hand) the Clippers suffered two more scary injuries. Two more injuries would be tough enough, but these injuries were to their two all-stars. The dynamic duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both suffered potentially debilitating injuries that could limit the Clippers not only in this series, but possibly moving forward to the 2nd round (if they can just close out Game 6 at Staples).
Griffin’s injury in the 3rd quarter brought the entire Clipper “Family” to his aid. The beloved Griffin went down awkwardly on his surgically repaired left knee with 1:31 left in the quarter. As Griffin clutched his left knee Clippers Nation collectively held their breath. Fortunately the initial diagnosis of his knee was a sprain and Blake was able to return to the game. (Griffin will be receiving a MRI on Thursday to be safe). Blake’s evolution from an athletic dunker to a “post-player” is one of the major reasons the Clippers won 40 games this season, as the Clippers have completely changed their culture from “Lobcity = Fun” to “Lobcity = WINNING”.
The Chris Paul injury is troublesome as well. The fact that the one of the best closers in basketball couldn’t go in the last two minutes speaks to the severe nature of his sprained right hip flexor. Paul is a warrior who is already playing with a compromised groin and a jammed middle finger on his shooting hand. The cold truth is that without Paul, this series would be 5-0 Memphis. Paul has been the absolute difference in the series. The stark reality is that Chris Paul at 70-80% may not be good enough for the Clippers to win Game 6 or 7. Memphis was clearly the more aggressive team last night, as they simply have more weapons than Paul does right now at his disposal. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are dominating down low and Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo and Mike Conley are straight up “balling” on the perimeter. This raises two profound questions,
- Can a collection of above-average players win two more games in a row?
- Can a team based on two hobbled superstars that relies on heart, chemistry and character overcome adversity and win Game 6 at home?
Game 6 could be an epic battle that sets up oddly. Even though the Clips are up 3 games to 2, Game 6 at Staples Center is a must-win for both teams. If Memphis wins in LA, they would have both the healthier team and all of the momentum going back home for Game 7. That would be a tough environment for the a severely banged up Clippers team. Memphis would certainly have the upper hand in that situation.
Only one thing in this series is certainly: there is going to be drama and it is going to be fun! Don’t miss Game 6!
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