The Los Angeles Clippers are obviously not the same team that went up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Their two best players, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, have been slowed by injuries and it has affected the entire complexion of the series. Paul has an injured hip flexor and sore groin, while Griffin has a sprained knee. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro admitted after the 90-88 loss to the Grizzlies in Game 6 in L.A. that his two superstars are very “limited” at this point.
“Injuries are a part of it. Unfortunately, it hit us at a bad time,” Del Negro said.
“He didn’t have quite the burst to get by guys,” Del Negro said of Paul “He had to get the ball up a little bit to save himself. He couldn’t get aggressive as he would want to in the open court.”
“Nobody is 100 percent at this point of the season,”said Paul, who was held to 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in Game 6. “I tried to tough it out, and so did Blake. I couldn’t move as I like to.”
Griffin said he had to alter his game somewhat because of the pain in his knee, and tried to move the ball and get others involved. He finished with 17 points and five rebounds in 32 minutes.
The injuries are a legit concern for the Clippers, but they’re not getting any sympathy cards from the Grizzlies.
“I didn’t know he was hurt. Was he hurt?” Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph asked a reporter when the Paul injury was brought to his attention. “It’s the playoffs. We’re not looking for any excuse. My knee is hurting, but I’m not looking for an excuse. It is what it is. I just came off a torn knee injury. You gotta put that in the back and come out and play.”
Randolph easily enjoyed his best game of the series Friday when he scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds in 38 minutes. It was shades of the Z-Bo who dominated last season’s first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.
“It has been a physical series and everybody has something. People are icing knees, ankles, even necks. Everybody has something at this point,” said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who had a game-high 23 points and has elevated his game the last two games after being relatively absent for the first four.
Gasol and the Grizzlies have regained home-court edge in the series and will have Game 7 in Memphis. In the history of the NBA playoffs, home teams have won Game 7s 80 percent of the time.