PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — There was no optimism coming from the Clippers’ training facility Wednesday about Blake Griffin — and only a small amount about their chances to extend their first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies to a seventh game.
Griffin, who sustained a high right ankle sprain Monday in practice and played only 19½ minutes in the Clippers’ 103-93 defeat in Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center, underwent an X-ray and MRI on Wednesday, both of which were negative. His status for Friday’s sixth game is still undecided, and coach Vinny Del Negro said it would be a game-time decision.
“He battled through it,” Del Negro said Wednesday. “He couldn’t move real well. Right now, it’s such a physical series. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
The Clippers may not have many tomorrows unless they somehow reverse their downward trend that has resulted in three consecutive losses to the Grizzlies after winning Games 1 and 2. Guard Chris Paul tied his career playoff high with 35 points on Tuesday, but the rest of the team’s starters were held to 18 points, and the only other player in double figures was Jamal Crawford, who had 15.
“Every game right now is a must win,” Del Negro said. “Game 5 is a huge game in any series when it’s tied up, especially when you have home court. That’s an obvious thing. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. We’ve got to regroup, we’ve got to get down there and fight. That’s what it comes down to.”
But how effective they’ll be if Griffin can’t play is debatable. Griffin took treatment the night before the game and had four points and three rebounds in almost nine minutes of the opening quarter, but it was clear he was limited. He played 6 minutes 21 seconds of the third quarter but left with his team trailing by nine and didn’t return.
“As the game went on, he got fatigued,” Del Negro said. “Offensively, I thought he did some good things, but defensively, it was hard for him to move. You could tell on his rotations and things he was doing. He gave us the effort he could, but he just wasn’t moving well enough.
“It’s terrible timing. You have to deal with it. No one likes it, no more so than him, but injuries are part of pro sports and sports in general. You’ve got to manage it.”
If Griffin sits, Del Negro said Lamar Odom would likely take his spot in the starting lineup. Odom had five points, four rebounds and two assists in Game 5, but his primary job would probably be to keep Zach Randolph off the boards and prevent easy baskets by the Memphis forward, something the Clippers have been unable to do.
Meanwhile, Paul had his left hand wrapped after Tuesday’s game, which the team said was a bruised thumb on his non-shooting hand, but it’s not expected to affect his status.
With Griffin likely out, Paul said everyone has to step forward.
“It’s going to be by committee,” he said after Game 5. “You can’t just replace Blake with one person. We have to do it by committee.
“It’s tough. Right now we’re in the heart of the season and we’re fighting for our lives. BG tried to give it a go like we all knew he would. It’s a tough blow, but what can you do?”