(Sports Network) - The banged-up Clippers may have lost far more than a
basketball game and a chance to close out the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Los Angeles' two best players went down in a 92-80 Game 5 loss at Memphis.
Blake Griffin, the Clips' athletic power forward went down with a sprained
left knee after a third quarter fall under the basket, while Chris Paul, the
superstar point guard that has helped turn the franchise around, strained his
right hip flexor going for a rebound late in the final frame.
Those are just the latest in a series on injuries for the hard-luck Clippers.
Veteran forward Caron Butler continues to play with a broken left hand and
shooting guard Chauncey Billups is long gone after tearing an Achilles in the
regular season yet L.A. still leads the Western Conference quarterfinals set
3-2 with a chance to finish things on its home floor.
An MRI on Griffin's knee Thursday revealed no structural damage and both he
and Paul will be game-time decisions on Friday night, although each is
expected to play considering the stakes for the Clippers, who are trying to
advance to the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2006
and avoid a deciding Game 7 in Memphis.
"We know how big of a game it is," Clips coach Vinny Del Negro said. "It's
great to be in this situation, and we have to handle it the right way,
The Grizzlies, who squandered a 27-point lead in a disappointing Game 1 loss,
were up by as many as 24 on Wednesday before Los Angeles pulled within single
digits late in the fourth quarter.
Memphis, though, managed to close the game this time with an 11-5 run to avoid
elimination and send the series back to Staples Center.
Marc Gasol had 23 points in the win, Zach Randolph added 19 and 10 rebounds
and Rudy Gay finished with 14 points.
"We were more disciplined defensively than we have been in the past,
especially in the fourth quarter when they were cutting into the lead that we
had," said Gasol.
The Clippers, who had won the previous two games of the series, were led
by Mo Williams' 20 points.
Paul scored 19 and Griffin finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds after being
medically cleared to return to the game.
"I expect them both to be fine," Del Negro said of his two stars. "Obviously
they are going to be sore and injured and they are gonna have to fight through
it as best they can."
Memphis is fighting history here in trying to comeback to win the set. Only
eight NBA teams have won a series after trailing 3-1, the last of which was
the 2006 Phoenix Suns, when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers.
"They've made more plays than us," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "I
mean the little kid Chris Paul has done a great job of finishing games and
that's really been the difference in all those games that we have lost."
The Clippers' last playoff series win came over the Nuggets in '06 and this is
their first trip to the playoffs since then, largely due to the blockbuster
trade that brought Paul to town from New Orleans.
Memphis lost two of three meetings against the Clippers in the regular
season, both at Staples Center.
The Sports Network