Rivers, Clippers look at 10 possible lineups for Game 5 vs. Blazers
'WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT A WAY,' SAYS REDICK
LOS ANGELES The Los Angeles Clippers have taken a double whammy maybe the biggest in a single day in NBA playoff history.
Perennial All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been ruled out of the rest of the Clippers first-round playoff series with the Trail Blazers due to injuries.
Is one team losing two players of that magnitude at the same time in the postseason unprecedented?
Theyre 1 and 2 (in terms of importance) on our team, coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday after practice at the Clippers training facility. Im sure it has happened. I dont know when. I can tell you for a fact it has never happened before in the same game.
Paul, the point guard, floor leader and best player of the Clippers, suffered a fracture of the third metatarsal in his right hand during the third quarter of Portlands 98-84 victory Monday night at Moda Center. Paul underwent surgery Tuesday; in a release, the club said he is out indefinitely. Sources say he will be lost for at least a month.
Later in the quarter, Griffin left the game after aggravating a quadriceps tendon injury that had caused him to miss time during the regular season. A Tuesday morning MRI revealed no further structural damage, but the five-time All-Star power forward will miss the rest of the season, beginning with Wednesday nights Game 5 at Staples Center.
Paul was averaging 23.8 points he scored at least 25 in each of the first three games and 7.3 assists in the series. He scored the Clippers first 12 points in Game 4. Griffin was averaging 15.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in the series.
We have to move on to the next step for us, Rivers said. Its a 2-2 series. We still have homecourt (advantage). No one has won a road game yet in the series. Now we have to find a way to win (Wednesday). Thats as far ahead as we can think right now.
My job is to make sure the guys are ready and focused. When you have the injuries we have, its easy to think of all kinds of other stuff.
Rivers would give only hints about which players will replace Paul and Griffin in the starting lineup.
We had 10 different lineups on the board today, he said. Most likely it will be a pretty big lineup, but were not sure yet. Theres a big consensus of going really big, and then theres one of going really small. Well have to figure that out.
At point guard, Rivers could go to his son, Austin, a slasher on offense and one of the teams best perimeter defenders. Or he could go with veteran Jamal Crawford, recently named the NBAs Sixth Man of the Year for the third time. Crawford started five games this season, scoring 37, 32 and 30 points in three of those games.
Thats attractive, Rivers said.
Jeff Green, the 6-9 forward who had his best game of the series with 17 points and five rebounds Monday night, would be the likely replacement for Griffin.
Rivers may choose to go with both his son and Crawford in the starting backcourt and bring J.J. Redick who is dealing with a sore heel off the bench. The normally sharpshooting Redick has made 5 of 23 shots from the field in the last two games.
How much has the injury affected Redicks shot?
Id like to say it hasnt, but its definitely in the back of your mind, he said Tuesday. Its just something I have to work through, and figure out a way to make shots.
The loss of Paul and Griffin changes things in our offense, for sure, Rivers said. He said he will run a motion offense he installed during training camp.
The times Chris has been off the floor, weve run our motion stuff and been very effective with it, Rivers said. Its a blessing we did that. Thank God we did that.
Now playing without him, well be in motion for 48 minutes. We have guys with Austin and Jamal who are more scoring-oriented. Anybody can start the offense, but the ball has to move.
Paul defended Portlands Damian Lillard through most of the first four games, holding the Blazers leading scorer to a 20.5-point average and .365 shooting.
Our best defense was when we had CP and Austin guarding people, Rivers said. Now we just have one. Thats going to be hard, theres no doubt about it. That leaves one of those guys (Lillard and backcourt mate CJ McCollum) being guarded by somebody else.
Redick said the Clippers are down, but not out.
Its really disappointing, he said. You feel bad for Chris and Blake, but were in the middle of a playoff series. We still have work to do.
You cant feel sorry for yourself. You cant let go of the rope right now. We have three games to win two. We have to figure out a way to do it.