The wild theory that the Los Angeles Clippers are fine without Blake Griffin has lost some luster. A shiny season-best winning streak helped conceal that for some time, but the shaky stretch that followed has uncovered some rust.
The Clippers were already faced with surviving their star forward's absence through at least the final two stops on this five-game trip starting with Tuesday night's visit to the slumping Indiana Pacers, but now it appears Griffin will be out even longer.
Griffin hurt his hand in an altercation with a member of the team's coaching staff and left the trip early just as he was nearing his return from a partially torn tendon in his left quadriceps. Coach Doc Rivers said the team would release a statement about the incident and address it fully before tipoff against the Pacers.
Los Angeles (28-16) won 10 straight Dec. 25-Jan. 13, the final nine without Griffin - whom the team believed might return on the trip - but the club has lost three of five since after Sunday's 112-94 defeat at Toronto marked its most lopsided of the season.
The reserves were the issue against the Raptors, who held a 51-29 advantage off the bench. All five starters were a plus-5 or better, while the Clippers' top five reserves were at minus-23 or worse.
"They were just awful," Rivers said. "I think that's it. It's rare when you lose by 18 points and your starters all have a plus. That doesn't happen very often. Our bench has been good but (Sunday night) they were awful."
Los Angeles ranks toward the top of the league with a 40.1 percentage from 3-point range since Dec. 26, led by J.J. Redick's NBA-best 55.4, but the Clippers made just 8 of 26 in Toronto. They were outrebounded 44-34, with that total their lowest of the season.
"It's not about the first unit, the second unit, it's our team," said Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points and 11 assists. "There's been nights where the starters have come out and haven't played well and the second unit has brought us back, so I told us after the game that we've just got to find a way to put it all together."
The pieces seemed to be fitting for Indiana (23-21) the last time these two teams met in a 103-91 win on Dec. 2. That was the final game of a season-high six-game winning streak and the Pacers' 12th victory in 14 tries.
They have been up and down since, however, and are struggling through their worst stretch of the season with five losses in six games.
Indiana finished a 1-3 road trip with Saturday's 108-97 loss at Sacramento. The Pacers shot 41.9 percent and didn't have a single player with a positive point differential.
''We gotta do better than that on a trip like this. I'm disappointed,'' coach Frank Vogel said. ''We played well in a few games, but not good enough.''
Indiana will try to improve on its 13-6 record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse after going 4-7 through a stretch of nine of 11 games away from home.
Paul George was named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter last week, and he rebounded from three consecutive games with fewer than 20 points by scoring 34 against the Kings. George put up 31 against the Clippers last month - three fewer than Los Angeles' starters totaled - while grabbing 10 rebounds in a game Paul missed.
Pacers starting center Ian Mahinmi is questionable due to his sprained left ankle, and reserve Rodney Stuckey has been ruled out with a sprained right ankle.