Clippers in 3-2 hole and may be without Griffin
APR 30, 2013 11:50p ET
They understood that beating the Memphis Grizzlies meant getting rebounds, playing defense and keeping Zach Randolph away from the basket.
But Tuesday night at Staples Center, they did none of that. Even worse, their hopes of advancing to the second round of the playoffs may rest on Blake Griffin’s right ankle.
Griffin suffered a high ankle sprain Monday in practice and played just 19½ minutes in the Clippers’ 103-93 loss that put Memphis within one win of moving into the Western Conference second round.
If Griffin is unable to play in Game 6 Friday – and right now, no one is willing to say if there’s even a remote chance he will – the Clippers’ season may end just as the Lakers’ season ended Sunday night, with a quick exit.
Two L.A. teams and neither one still in the playoffs? It could happen.
Griffin, who left the game for good with 5 minutes 39 seconds left in the third quarter, tried to sound optimistic about playing Friday. But his mood was grim.
“We have to wait and see,” he said. “It’s two days. It felt good enough at the beginning of the game but got worse as time went on, so hopefully with two days of rest and two days of treatment, I will be (ready).”
Griffin admitted he wasn’t able to do the things he normally does on the court, but it might not have mattered anyway. Although Chris Paul matched his career playoff high with 35 points, the Grizzlies took control in the second quarter by playing with the same grit and resolve they did in winning Games 3 and 4 on their home floor.
Essentially, they relied on the strong inside play of Zach Randolph, who got easy layups and tip-ins, and Marc Gasol, who scored six of his 21 points in the third quarter.
Randolph had 25 points and 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards, and the Grizzlies scored 19 second-chance points. Memphis grabbed 42 rebounds to the Clippers’ 40, but it continued to control the offensive boards when it counted.
The Grizzlies turned over the ball just seven times, none in the final period.
“Again, rebounding won the game,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
Memphis’ victory marked the first time in the best-of-seven series that the visiting team won, but to force a Game 7, the Clippers will have to do the same thing. They won twice during the regular season at FedEx Forum, including April 13 when home-court advantage hung in the balance. And they won Game 7 at Memphis last season when they faced the Grizzlies in the first round.
“We’ve done it before,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We did it at the end of the season.”
But they’ll have to play with the kind of intensity and energy they showed in winning the first two games of the series and not rely on Paul to provide most of their offense.
“We’ve got to be desperate,” Paul said. “That’s how it is.”
Doing it without Griffin might make it impossible.
Griffin said he came down on a teammate’s foot during a scrimmage and knew immediately something was wrong.
“It was one of those things where I honestly didn’t believe it happened,” he said. “I kept being optimistic. Our training staff did a great job, and I got treatment literally all through the night. It just didn’t hold up.”
Whether the Clippers hold up depends on if they can figure out how to stop the Grizzlies’ big men, get rebounds at the defensive end and find more contributors on offense besides Paul, who outscored the team’s other five starters 35-18.
“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Matt Barnes said. “We’ve got to go out and play.”
And win, otherwise a great regular season will turn meaningless in a hurry.