The Los Angeles Clippers have been a very good regular season team for the past five years, winning over 60 percent of their games and finishing first or second in the Pacific Division each season. However, they haven’t been able to get past the Western Conference Semis and after a Game Four disaster in Portland, it’s wait again until next year for the Clippers.
Things were looking up for the Clippers until last night. They had Blake Griffin back from injury just in time for the playoffs and they had reasonable expectations that Griffin would be playing in All-Star form by the second round.
Facing the upstart Trail Blazers who are in the midst of a major rebuilding program, the fourth place Clippers were heavy favorites to win their first round series in five or six games and the first place Golden State Warriors had just lost MVP Stephen Curry to an MCL strain that will cause him to miss at least a couple of weeks and possibly more.
You don’t want to wish injury on anther team, but without Curry raining threes for the Warriors, the Clippers had a fighting chance of advancing to the Conference Final. Then everything got thrown up in the air and the Clippers might not even be the favorite versus Portland anymore as reported by Robert Morales of Inside The Clippers.
The Clippers lost Chris Paul – probably for the series and maybe for the season – when Paul sustained a fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand during the third quarter.
“Well, I didn’t see the play, I just know he fractured his hand,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, glumly. “He’s going to get it evaluated tomorrow, but it obviously doesn’t look very good for him.”
That’s not all. Blake Griffin’s partially torn quad tendon is acting up again, and he wasn’t able to play down the stretch.
“It doesn’t look great for him, either,” Rivers said. “We’ll see about it tomorrow.”
The Clippers had played well without Griffin for most of the regular season and should be able to deal with Portland if he was their only concern, however, even this setback would likely have been too big to handle in a second round match against the Warriors. Now missing Paul, the Clippers are a shell of themselves.
A perennial All-Star and All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive Team selection, Paul runs the offense and guards the opposition’s best player. He is irreplaceable. A broken hand means see you in training camp. Rivers has lost his horse.
Even without a solution, the Clippers won’t give up as reported by J.A. Adande of ESPN,
“Obviously, people are going to write us off,” Jamal Crawford said. “But what are you going to do? Are you going to fight or run?”
“There’s nobody, probably, in the league that’s going to replace Chris Paul,” Rivers said. “So there’s nobody clearly on our team that’s going to do it.”
While nothing is for sure in the playoffs, the odds in this first round match have just turned in Portland’s favor and even if the Clippers somehow survive the young Trail Blazers onslaught without Paul, no one is going to give them a ghost of a chance against the Warriors, with or without Curry.