Clippers Now

Blake Griffin's return to Los Angeles Clippers won't happen on current trip

Blake Griffin has returned to Los Angeles and will not play on the rest of the Clippers' trip that includes games against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday and the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

The All-Star power forward has not suffered a setback in his recovery from a quadriceps injury, a team spokesman said, but is still working back into game shape and wants to make sure he is ready before returning.

The Clippers have won 11 of 14 games since Griffin was sidelined the day after Christmas.

"I mean, we're winning games, it's all good and well," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said after a victory over the New York Knicks on Friday, "but we won't see what our team is made of until Blake gets back."

Griffin is also considered doubtful for the Clippers' game against the Lakers on Friday at Staples Center and there remains no definitive timetable for his return.

Top-down approach?

If the opponent is elite, the Clippers seem beat.

The Clippers are a combined 0-8 against the top three teams in the Western and Eastern conferences after getting swept in the season series by the Toronto Raptors.

They have also lost twice to the Golden State Warriors and once each to the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.

The Clippers have been close against the best teams in the West, holding a lead in the fourth quarter of each of their four losses. The top East teams have handled the Clippers with a bit more ease.

The Raptors pose matchup problems for the Clippers with their quick guards.

"We've got to figure it out," Paul told reporters Sunday after his team's 112-94 loss to the Raptors, "because hopefully we'll meet them at some point" in the playoffs.

Back to Toronto?

Paul probably hasn't made his final trip to Toronto this season, even if the Clippers don't return for the NBA Finals.

He is widely expected to be selected by coaches for the All-Star game Feb. 14 at the Air Canada Centre when the reserves are announced Thursday.

Paul had 23 points and 11 assists against the Raptors, continuing a surge of production in which he has averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 assists while making 48.1% of his shots in his last 10 games.

Team first

It's become routine for the Clippers starters to exuberantly cheer from the bench for Pablo Prigioni whenever the reserve guard does something well. It could be a steal, an assist or forcing a jump ball with his effort.

Part of his teammates' enthusiasm comes from Prigioni's having been the ultimate team player.

"The reason people celebrate Pablo is because he hasn't played all season long," guard Austin Rivers said, referring to Prigioni's having only recently become a regular member of the playing rotation. "When Blake gets back and Paul [Pierce] comes back to our unit, [Prigioni] might not play, he might go back [to the bench]. It's not a problem with him. When his name's called, he plays hard and with the right spirit. So when a guy does well, you cheer for him."

Prigioni's effect on the second unit could probably be best illustrated by this statistic: When Prigioni's on the court, Rivers has made 35.3% of his three-pointers as opposed to only 22.1% when Prigioni is on the bench. Jamal Crawford has experienced a similar uptick, making 39.6% of his three-pointers while playing alongside Prigioni versus 30% when Prigioni is on the bench.

UP NEXT

CLIPPERS AT INDIANA PACERS

When: Tuesday, 4 p.m. PST.

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.

Records: Clippers 28-16; Pacers 23-21.

Record vs. Pacers: 0-1.

Update: Indiana has been on a steady decline the last six weeks, going 7-12 to erase most of the gains made by its 16-9 start. The Pacers have lost five of their last six games, including a 108-97 defeat against Sacramento on Saturday. A big part of the problem has been defense; Indiana allowed 113.3 points per game on a recently completed trip, struggling to stop anyone around the basket with center Ian Mahinmi sidelined by a left foot injury. Sixth man Rodney Stuckey has also been out because of a bone bruise and sprain in his right foot. Mahinmi is questionable to play against the Clippers and Stuckey remains out.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

Bolch reported from New York.

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