Blake Griffin hyperextends his knee. Chris Paul strains his hip flexor. The Clippers get almost nothing from anyone else except for Mo Williams, who goes 8-for-21. The team shoots 37 percent from the field. Gasol and Randolph combine for 42 points.
And the Clippers were within two possessions in the fourth quarter. Just another day in Lob City, right? Here’s my Ledger from ESPNLA.com:
Blake Griffin took everyone’s breath away, but not in the good way. A late third-quarter drive ended with Griffin’s left knee collapsing from underneath him on an awkward fall. After being attended to by trainers, Griffin hobbled off the court to a heartless chorus of boos from the Grizzlies’ crowd. Griffin’s eventual return to the floor was simultaneously gutsy and foolish, as he limped through the final period with little production.
The hits keep on coming. After he and Mo Williams led another huge comeback to pull the Clippers back within two possessions, Chris Paul aggravated his lingering groin injury. Although the run to get back in it was impressive, Chris Paul’s inability to get to his favorite spots on the floor and break down the defense early on put the wounded Clippers in too big of a hole to crawl out of.
Sound the alarm. DeAndre Jordan is supposed to function as the Clippers’ defensive anchor, but along with Griffin, he was pounded in the post on nearly every single possession to start the game. It’s no secret that Vinny Del Negro doesn’t trust Jordan to close games because of his decision making, but Jordan was just outworked in nearly every facet of the game.
What do you do when you can’t shoot? Move closer. After depending on Rudy Gay almost exclusively in Game 4, the Grizzlies got back to business and ran their offense through the post almost exclusively, building a huge lead by piling up points in the paint. The Clippers had success plugging the gaps with schematic (zone defense) and personnel (Reggie Evans) adjustments, but the damage was done.
Talk about a best-case scenario. Yes, it was critical for the Grizzlies to revive Gasol and Randolph and get them back to their brutal post-scoring ways, but having Paul and Griffin suffer injuries may have completely swung the momentum and given the Grizzlies the mental edge required to go secure a win on the road in Game 6.