Blake Griffin will be out at least two weeks, but Clippers win
Doc Rivers was in a bad mood even before the Clippers departed home for Utah, grumbling about traveling when his team would lose an hour playing the next day in the Mountain time zone.
The Clippers lost something far more significant Saturday.
An MRI exam revealed that All-Star forward Blake Griffin had suffered a torn left quadriceps tendon the previous day against the Lakers and would be sidelined at least two weeks.
Griffin did not accompany the Clippers here and is expected to remain in Southern California for the rest of the team’s trip that includes three more games after a 109-104 victory over the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Clippers used an ensemble approach in their first game this season without Griffin, getting two three-pointers in the final 96 seconds from J.J. Redick, a season-high 20 points from Paul Pierce and a little bit of everything from Chris Paul, who had 19 points, 11 assists and two steals.
“Everybody did something,” Rivers said.
Redick finished with 25 points on eight-for-11 shooting, making five of seven shots from three-point range. The Jazz sagged off the hottest shooter on the court on a three-pointer with 63 seconds remaining because of a defensive miscommunication.
The Clippers (18-13) happily took it to start their second extended stretch in two seasons without Griffin. If he missed only two weeks, he would have to sit out seven games.
Griffin missed about five weeks toward the middle of last season with a staph infection in his right elbow and the Clippers did just fine, going 9-6 as center DeAndre Jordan benefited from a heavy increase in pick and rolls by averaging 14.9 points and 18.5 rebounds in those games.
Jordan came reasonably close to matching those numbers against the Jazz with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
Rivers said he didn’t want one player to try to make up for the production of Griffin, the Clippers’ leading scorer and best all-around player who was averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
Josh Smith started in Griffin’s spot but didn’t last long. He threw a lob for Jordan that deflected off the rim on the Clippers’ second possession, missed two shots and was pulled after playing only five minutes in the first quarter.
Pierce made three three-pointers in the third quarter and Redick topped that with a trio of three-pointers in a span of 65 seconds to help the Clippers outscore the Jazz, 31-24, over those 12 minutes. Pierce made five of seven three-pointers overall and had a dunk in the first quarter.
“There’s a lot of things I can still do,” Pierce said.
Griffin’s absence was particularly palpable in the first half as the Clippers fell behind by 11 points.
“I told J.J., ‘Man you almost forget how much you use Blake in everything that you do,’” Paul said.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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