Blake Griffin set to return Tuesday night vs 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is expected to return Tuesday, when the Clippers visit the Philadelphia 76ers, but two other top-notch players are expected to miss the game.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul is out until March after tearing ligaments in his left thumb last week.
The Sixers are also expected to be without rookie center Joel Embiid. He injured his left knee in last Friday's victory over Portland, an injury that has alternately been described by the team as a contusion and a hyperextension.
Griffin, averaging 21.2 points and 8.8 rebounds while appearing in 26 games this season, underwent arthroscopic surgery to have loose bodies removed from his right knee on Dec. 19 and missed 18 games, including Monday's 115-105 victory in Atlanta.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters Monday that Griffin would "most likely" play against the Sixers.
"Most likely, definitely," Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. "It's an alternate fact."
Griffin seemed eager to return when he addressed reporters Saturday in Denver, as the Clippers began a five-game road trip.
"I would play tonight if they let me," he told the Orange County Register. "This trip, this is it."
Paul, averaging 17.5 points, 9.7 assists and 2.2 steals a game this season, was injured during last Monday's victory over Oklahoma City and underwent surgery last Friday. He is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.
The Clippers (30-16) are fourth in the Western Conference, having snapped a two-game losing streak with Monday's victory over the Hawks. Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Jamal Crawford added 19 for Los Angeles, which built a 24-point lead and held off Atlanta down the stretch.
Embiid leads the Sixers (15-27) and all NBA rookies in scoring (19.8), rebounding (7.8) and blocked shots (2.5). He suffered his injury when he landed awkwardly after dunking in the third quarter last Friday, and while he later returned, he was removed for good with 8:50 left.
Philadelphia nonetheless won that night, on a 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left by forward Robert Covington. It was the Sixers' third straight victory, their sixth in seven games and their eighth in 10.
Embiid, named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, did not play in Saturday's 110-93 loss in Atlanta, but the Sixers typically have not played him in the second game of back-to-back sets, after he missed two seasons following a pair of foot surgeries.
He is listed as doubtful for Tuesday's game, but coach Brett Brown took it one step further when he met with reporters after practice Monday.
"We're going to be without him (Tuesday) and in Milwaukee (on Wednesday) and we will go from there," Brown told Philly.com.
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, citing unnamed league sources, reported that Embiid will return Friday, when the Sixers host Houston on national television.
Jahlil Okafor is expected to start in Embiid's place against the Clippers, even though Philly.com reported that he did not take part in the five-on-five portion of Monday's practice because of a sore right knee. He is nonetheless listed as probable for Tuesday's game.