PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — The Clippers haven’t been the healthiest team in the NBA this season, but their ability to win despite some missing parts has been remarkable.
Over the course of their first 54 games, they’ve gone extended stretches without point guard Chris Paul, shooting guard J.J. Redick and forward Matt Barnes. But it hasn’t slowed their pace.
With Wednesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers marking their final contest before the All-Star break, the Clippers can only hope they’ll hit the stretch run in relative health.
"It’s been a constant struggle with injuries," forward Blake Griffin said Tuesday. "A lot of teams go through those things, but I’ve said throughout the course of the season, as long as we’re healthy come the playoffs, I’m happy with it."
It would be perfect timing. So far this season, the Clippers have played just 16 games with their projected starting lineup: Paul, Redick, Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and either Jared Dudley or Barnes at small forward. Redick will sit out his third consecutive games Wednesday with a sore right hip.
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Even so, the Clippers are a Pacific Division-leading 36-18, and they weathered a significant 18-game period without Paul, going 12-6 while he was sidelined with a separated right shoulder.
Paul returned Sunday night and has said he will participate in the All-Star game this weekend at New Orleans, returning to the city where he began his NBA career and played his first six seasons.
Of more importance to the Clippers is how they’re moving forward in spite of all their injuries. At least in terms of understanding and practicing defensive and offensive principles, coach Doc Rivers is pleased.
"Clearly we haven’t been healthy," he said. "There’s no way we’ve had that, but even with that, we’re still close. I think we’re at the point of understanding it. We’re not at the point of doing it consistently at either end, but I just like where we’re trending."
The five-day break will give Redick more time to recover from what he describes as a strained gluteus muscle that’s causing nerve irritation in his hip. He already missed 21 games from Dec. 1 to Jan. 8 because of a torn ligament in his right wrist and a fracture in his right hand.
The last time Redick and Paul were in the starting backcourt was Nov. 27, the Clippers’ 16th game.
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Redick won’t play Wednesday night, and although Rivers said he’s hopeful for a return next Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs, Redick isn’t sure.
"I’m beyond frustrated about having to sit these games out," he said. "It makes it worse because I missed games when I broke my wrist. Now Chris is back, and I’m looking forward to us having our full lineup out there."
No one is certain when that will happen, but there’s a unified believe that when it does, the Clippers will be among the league’s most imposing teams approaching the postseason.
"I can’t wait for our full group to be out there," Redick said. "We were still trying to figure each other out (earlier in the season), so to get everybody healthy down the stretch will be great."