Paul George has carried the Indiana Pacers during their hot stretch. Blake Griffin may have to do the same for the Los Angeles Clippers to maintain theirs.
The Clippers host the red-hot Pacers on Wednesday night possibly without Chris Paul after the point guard strained his rib cage Monday.
Paul did not return after exiting a 102-87 win over Portland midway through the third quarter. The Clippers will re-evaluate his status prior to Wednesday's game while bracing for an absence of some sort.
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“You can't replace Chris, obviously,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “But we have to learn to play with somebody down. I may be down a game, Blake might be out. Injuries happen, things happen, and we want to be able to fill that void.”
Los Angeles (10-8) lost two of the three games Paul missed earlier this season with a groin strain. It was able to overcome his departure against a Trail Blazers team that played most of the second half without Damian Lillard.
Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin will handle the ball more if the All-Star guard again misses time.
“Whenever Chris is out, Blake and the point guard do the ball-handling duties,” Rivers said. “It's nice when you have a guy like Blake that can do stuff like that.”
Griffin had a season-high nine assists with Paul sidelined for a 101-96 win over Detroit on Nov. 14 and has averaged 6.7 in the last three games – all wins. The Clippers had previously lost eight of 11.
He's averaging 27.3 points on 57.5 percent shooting over his last four and now has 450 points this season, the most through 18 games since the franchise moved from San Diego in 1984-85.
George enters on an even more impressive roll. The versatile forward has gone 16 of 28 from 3-point range while averaging 37.3 points over the last three games and has totaled 20 or more in 12 straight.
Indiana (11-5) has won five in a row and 11 of 13 after beginning this four-game western trip with a 107-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at an emotionally charged Staples Center. George scored 11 of his 39 points in the final 1:27 to keep Indiana in front in the Lakers' first game since Kobe Bryant announced he will retire at the season's end.
“I had the utmost confidence to put this game in my hands,” George told the team's official website.
With George and C.J. Miles leading the way, the Pacers are averaging 113.8 points and shooting 45.7 percent on 3-pointers in winning their last five by an average of 19.4 points. Miles is 25 of 50 from beyond the arc while averaging 19.5 points over his last six.
Indiana was swept in last season's two meetings with the Clippers as George missed both. Griffin averaged 24.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while Jordan grabbed a combined 42 boards.
Jordan had a season-high 24 rebounds Monday along with 18 points, but he also missed 22 free throws to tie Wilt Chamberlain's NBA record and set a franchise record with 34 attempts. Jordan's 153 attempts are third-most in the league and his 37.9 free-throw percentage is the worst.