The Clippers lost Blake Griffin for at least a month, probably considerably longer, but they did win something Tuesday. They beat the Indiana Pacers, 91-89, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a tightly contested, defensive-oriented and at times boring game. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Now the Clippers will really find out how much they miss Blake Griffin. They have won 12 of 15 games since Griffin went down with a partially torn left quadriceps tendon, but they’re going to have to endure a much longer absence after Griffin broke a bone in his right hand while punching assistant equipment manager Mathias Testi. Even Clippers Coach Doc Rivers admitted the team-issued timetable of four to six weeks seemed unrealistic. Plus there’s the matter of a possible suspension once Griffin is cleared to return. It’s likely Griffin won’t return before well into March, giving him only a few weeks to regain his form before the start of the playoffs. The Clippers will try to hold onto their No. 4 seeding in the Western Conference until then because, should they slip to No. 5 or lower, they would lose homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
3. Give the Clippers credit for winning at a time of mass distraction. They were still dealing with the fallout from the Griffin news and playing a Pacers team that badly needed a win after losing five of its previous six games. It seemed like a recipe for a loss until the Clippers reserves made some big contributions after a no-show two days earlier and they made the plays they needed to at the end. It might have helped that the veteran Clippers had plenty of experience dealing with adversity after the fiasco involving racially insensitive remarks made by former owner Donald Sterling during the playoffs in 2014. “One thing about our team, we’re resilient,” Paul said. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff around here.”
4. Doc Rivers put who on the court alongside DeAndre Jordan? It was Paul, Pablo Prigioni, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers on the court with the center early in the fourth quarter, a four-guard lineup caused by foul trouble to Wesley Johnson and Paul Pierce. The lineup worked surprisingly well in helping the Clippers extend a run that reached 13-0. “I just went with it, and I never have done it, and I went with it and the guys played great,” Rivers said.
5. Can the Clippers finish with a winning record on their lost trip? The trip will likely be remembered as a downer regardless of whether the Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, which would give them three wins in five games. The Griffin news overshadowed any on-court developments, but it certainly would be a big lift to return home having won more games than they lost on the trip. “Adversity is the true indicator sometimes,” Rivers said. “You go through it and you find out who your team really is sometimes.”