Los Angeles Clippers have thrived in injured star Blake Griffin’s absence
Never let it be said that J.J. Redick isn’t willing to help a rival.
The repeat contestant in the three-point shooting contest was asked during All-Star weekend what advice he would give to Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, who was making his first appearance in the All-Star game.
“We play them on Thursday,” Redick said, referring to the Clippers’ game against the Spurs at Staples Center, “so I would just tell him to go to every party, just hit the streets, not pay any attention to basketball, maybe stay out of the gym.”
The Clippers have deployed their own kind of merrymaking in recent weeks amid turbulent times.
“Love it,” the coach said last week. “Couldn’t be in a better place, especially when you factor in the injuries, especially to a top-10 player and what we’ve gone through, I’ll take that all year, every day, so it’s nice.”
The Clippers are trying to hold on to at least fourth place in the Western Conference standings, which would give them home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their chances look fairly good. They are 4 1/2 games behind the third-place Oklahoma City Thunder and four games ahead of the fifth-place Memphis Grizzlies, who could be without their starting center the rest of the season after Marc Gasol recently suffered a broken foot.
One factor potentially working against the Clippers in the next few weeks: their schedule. The San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, the teams with the top two records in the West, are their next two opponents and six of their first 10 games after the All-Star break are against teams with winning records.
The Clippers hope to welcome Griffin and Matias Testi, the assistant equipment manager who sustained a swollen face in the incident involving Griffin, back into their locker room in the coming days. Griffin isn’t expected to play in another game until sometime next month after he recovers from his hand injury and serves a four-game suspension for his role in the incident.
Austin Rivers could return sooner, the reserve guard about halfway through his expected monthlong injury absence. The Clippers are also pondering moves that could bolster their backcourt depth before the trade deadline at noon PST on Thursday.
Doc Rivers noted he was not pleased with point guard Chris Paul’s heavy usage in recent games with Austin Rivers sidelined. Paul played the entire second half and all of overtime last week during a loss to the Boston Celtics, logging a total of 47 minutes.
The Clippers have largely persevered without Griffin by using smaller lineups, spreading the floor and attempting more three-point shots. One facet of their play that was already improving before Griffin got hurt was their defense.
“That’s been a big part of our run,” Redick said. “Without Blake, it’s been our defense.”
Of course, the Clippers would rather see what they could do with Griffin as soon as possible.
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