Blake Griffin is out for the rest of the playoffs after aggravating his left quadriceps tendon and Chris Paul had right hand surgery Tuesday, leaving the stunned Los Angeles Clippers without their top two players for the remainder of their first-round series against Portland.
The team said Griffin had an MRI that revealed no further structural damage to the quad that he originally injured in a game on Dec. 25. He missed 41 games and an additional four as punishment for punching the team’s assistant equipment manager, returning on April 3. He’s expected to be ready for training camp in September. Griffin wasn’t made available to reporters.
“You feel bad for Chris, you feel bad for Blake,” said guard J.J. Redick, who is dealing with his own nagging left heel injury.
Paul had surgery to repair a hand fracture sustained in the third quarter of Monday night’s 98-84 loss in Game 4 that allowed Portland to tie the best-of-seven series 2-2. He appeared to catch his hand on Gerald Henderson’s jersey.
“C.P. is a reacher. He probably has the best hands in the league. At that time it got caught in the wrong place,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s amazing how things change for you.”
Griffin averaged 15.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists, while Paul averaged 23.8 points, 7.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the series.
Game 5 is Wednesday at Staples Center.
“We still have home court. No one has won a road game yet in this series,” Rivers said. “Now we have to find a way of winning tomorrow and that’s as far as we can think right now. My job with the guys is to make sure that they’re ready and focused. It’s easy when you have the injuries we have to think all kinds of other stuff.”
Rivers had not yet decided who will start in place of Griffin and Paul.
“We’ve had 10 different lineups on the board,” he said. “Most likely it will be a pretty big lineup.”
The Clippers are 25-21 in regular-season games and 1-1 in the playoffs without Paul, who missed two games against Houston in last year’s Western Conference semifinals.
“We have a very competitive basketball team and they have proven that all year,” Rivers said. “We have won games before without key guys and we can win games in the future without key guys.”
In the final two weeks of the regular season, the Clippers won by two points at Oklahoma City and by three points in overtime at Utah without Griffin and Paul.
Now in his 10th season, Paul has yet to win a championship.
“Chris is one of the great competitors that the league has ever seen,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “For him to go down right now it’s brutal. He’s worked his whole life to get here.”
Paul controls the Clippers’ offense like few others in the NBA. However, they installed a motion offense for when Paul wasn’t on the floor this season, freeing up scoring guards Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers while letting anyone else get the ball moving.
“We were very effective at it,” Doc Rivers said. “Thank God we did that because now playing without him we’ll be in motion for 48 minutes.”
For the third straight year in the playoffs — all under Rivers — the Clippers have been plagued by bad luck. The franchise that began in Buffalo, moved to San Diego and then Los Angeles has never advanced past the second round.
“Winning in the playoffs is tough and more so than anyone else, we’ve really proven that over the last three years,” Redick said.
In 2014, voice recordings of then-owner Donald Sterling surfaced during the playoffs in which he made racist comments, leading to him being banned by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who forced the sale of the team.
Last year, the Clippers were within a game of reaching the conference finals for the first time in franchise history, only to blow a 3-1 lead and lose the last three games by a combined 46 points to the Rockets.
Now, they’ve lost their two All-Stars.
“It’s bum’s luck three years in a row,” Rivers said. “You just got to keep going. You wake up in the morning and you feel like we’re going to find a way.”