Griffin playing sick was just what the doctor ordered for Clippers

Blake Griffin wasn’t the best player for the Clippers on Saturday, but his gutsy effort was certainly the most valuable.

My, how the struggling Clippers needed a performance like that, especially on the heels of an ugly loss to Golden State that had coach Doc Rivers questioning his team’s effort.

Griffin played against Portland despite a bout with stomach flu that hit him the night before the game. The Clippers rallied and hung on for a 106-102 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers after their star was often hunched over on the court, grabbing the end of his shorts as if to keep himself upright.

He was nauseous and didn’t have much energy, he said, but it wasn’t bad until he tried to run up and down the court.

Good thing that happens only every possession.

Griffin was sick enough that Rivers wasn’t sure if he would play. Griffin, who played 35 minutes, didn’t consider not playing.  

"No. Never. I saw our team doctor this morning. He asked me if I wanted to sit out," Griffin said. "I looked at him like he was crazy. That was never really an option."

Griffin scored 23 points, grabbed six rebounds and had three assists. But his leadership, and playing through an achy feeling that had him leaning back on the bench with a towel over his head during timeouts, well, that was priceless.

"Anybody else I think would do the same," Griffin said. "When you see a guy down and hurting a little bit and guys pick him up, that’s what my teammates did, they picked me up. It made it easier for me. I really appreciate them for that. It shows a lot about our team."

And a lot about Griffin.

Griffin said he didn’t want to "oversell it (because) people play sick all the time."

Yet given the dangerous path in which the Clippers were headed, it sure provided the kind of boost that can have lasting effects. Given that the Clippers had just played their worst game of the young season, Griffin playing hurt meant more than any basket.

"It’s always nice. There’s times when you’re sick and you can’t play, and times when you’re sick and you can play," Rivers said. "It’s always nice when one of your key guys decides, ‘You know what, I’m going to suit up anyway. Don’t know what I have. I’m not worried if I don’t play well. I’m just going to help my team in any way I can.’ And I think that’s what Blake did."

Griffin always provides a little comic relief, and on Saturday, he did even when sick. He and Glen "Big Baby" Davis collided and ended up in a big, unintentional bear hug on the court. It was a fun moment.  

Rivers tried to take Griffin out of the game at one point, but Griffin overruled him. They were in a timeout, Griffin said, and that was just enough rest that he would need.

"It was an amazing effort," Chris Paul said. "(Griffin) looked like he was about to die almost at halftime. He was laid out (in the locker room), but it shows how selfless he is and sacrifices for the team. Any time, he could’ve said ‘I haven’t got it fellas’ and we would have tried to pull it out for him, but he didn’t want to come out."

Griffin came out earlier in the third quarter than the rest of the starters, but they kept chipping away at the Trail Blazers’ lead, and the bench helped, too.

J.J. Redick had his best game of the season, scoring 30 points on 11 of 13 shots. Redick made an impressive turnaround, fadeaway jump shot from the baseline at the halftime buzzer to help the Clippers cut Portland’s deficit.

But Griffin’s performance is what will be remembered.

"He was big for us to play and be out there battling," Redick said. "He is an ultimate competitor, and he knows how much this team needs him, particularly right now with the way we are playing this season. He was there for us for sure."

The Clippers’ star was there, hunched over and nauseated and winded, but he was there. And that was what mattered most to the Clippers.