Clippers hope to have All-Star Griffin back against Lakers
LOS ANGELES — Five-time All Star forward Blake Griffin will be a game-time decision when the Los Angeles Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Friday.
Griffin has missed the past 14 games because of a sprained left knee, which he sustained in a 120-115 victory against the Lakers on Nov. 27. He was originally expected to miss eight weeks, but has made rapid progress in his rehabilitation.
“I just know his work ethic has to have something to do with it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He gets a lot of heat for getting injured, but no one gives him credit for getting healthy. He works his butt off like no one I’ve ever seen.”
Griffin went through a thorough workout before the Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday for their third win in the past four games. On Wednesday, he practiced with the Clippers G League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, and rejoined his Los Angeles teammates for another practice Thursday.
“We’ll see,” Griffin told the Southern California News Group of his availability against the Lakers. “We’re taking it day by day.”
Griffin is averaging 21.7 points and 9.1 rebounds in 26 career games against Los Angeles. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 15 for 33 from 3-point range in those games.
The Clippers (14-19) have won 20 of their past 22 games against the Lakers dating to the start of the 2012-13 season. In addition to the win on Nov. 27, the Clippers beat the Lakers 108-92 in the season opener.
The Lakers (11-22) remain without two injured starters, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball (sprained shoulder) and veteran center Brook Lopez (sprained ankle), and have lost four straight and seven of their past eight.
Brandon Ingram returned Wednesday after missing two games with injuries to his quads and the team’s second-leading scorer (16.3) produced 23 points in 44 minutes of a 109-99 loss to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
Lakers leading scorer Kyle Kuzma (17.8) took a season-high 24 shots against Memphis, but the rookie forward made just four, perhaps showing fatigue after playing at least 40 minutes in four of the previous five games.
Kuzma is listed as questionable for Friday’s game because of a quad injury.
“I didn’t think he was tired going into the game, but he’s played a lot of minutes, and here we are getting to the dog days of an NBA season,” Lakers coach Walton said after the game. “He’s a rookie. He’s never gone through this before. He’s playing a lot of minutes, taking a beating every night, so fatigue is always a factor.”
Kuzma said fatigue was not a factor in his performance Wednesday.
“I’m not going to make an excuse, basketball is basketball,” he said. “Shots just didn’t fall.”
Six of the past seven losses for the Lakers have been by 10 points or less, and several of those outcomes would likely be different if they shot better from the free-throw line. Los Angeles has combined to miss 67 free throws in the past seven games, shooting 64.2 percent from the line in that span to drop its season mark to 68.9, last in the NBA.
“Individually, we’re shooting hundreds of free throws in practice,” Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “It’s just one of those things that we’re working, we’re drilling it, and it doesn’t get better overnight.”