“I kept being optimistic. Our training staff did a great job giving me treatment.
“We were scrimmaging. I jumped up to make a pass and landed on someone’s foot. I’ve never had a high ankle sprain before. Normally, I can go the next day or a couple of days after.”
“He came out in limited minutes, got a couple buckets, five assists, five rebounds, he was active but as the game went on it just got fatigued and sore and worse and worse,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “You could see him there in the third, he was struggling to move, so I just pulled the plug on that. It just didn’t make sense. I wanted to protect him and make sure he was all right. But I give him a lot of credit for being out there.
“It’s just unfortunate timing and a very difficult one to handle, but you have to.”
Now the Clippers, after a franchise record 56 victories during the regular season and home-court advantage in the first round, are in trouble as Game 6 in Memphis looms Thursday.
“We’ve got to be desperate,” said guard Chris Paul, who tied his career playoff high with 35 points, but couldn’t find enough help. “That’s how it is. You say playoffs don’t start until somebody loses at home, I guess now it’s started. We lost here at home. Tried to come out with some energy but they beat us up again.”
Griffin was injured in practice Monday during a drill, when he made a layup and landed on Lamar Odom’s foot. It’s a high ankle sprain, the type that requires longer healing.
“It’s tough, but L.O. did a great job stepping up into that spot,” Paul said. “It’s got to be by committee. You don’t replace Blake Griffin with one person.
“It’s tough, but right now we’re in the heart of our season and we’re fighting for our lives. BG tried to give it a go and we knew he would. It’s a tough blow, but what can you do?”
Third quarter: Grizzlies 73, Clippers 65.
More of the same: Griffin had to leave for the locker room again, Conley (18 points), Randolph (15 points, nine rebounds) and Gasol (13 points) remained productive and Paul was doing everything he could to keep the Clippers in the game. Paul scored 10 more points, giving him 31 going into the fourth period. However, no other Clippers were in double figures. Rebounds: Clippers 33, Grizzlies 30.
Halftime: Grizzlies 54, Clippers 48
Paul’s 11 points in the period, including a 3-pointer in the final minute, gave him 21 points at halftime and saved the Clippers from a disastrous quarter. Griffin retreated to the locker briefly but was back on the Clippers’ bench early in the period and returned to the game with 7 minutes left. The Clippers were called for a defensive 3-second call three times in the period. Gasol’s baseline spin around Griffin for a three-point play enabled Memphis to open up a 46-40 lead with Griffin picking up his third foul on the play. Rebounds: Clippers 20, Grizzlies 19.
The lack of production the Clippers got from center DeAndre Jordan (four points, 10 rebounds) in the two games in Memphis might not have set off alarm bells, but it was a concern heading into Game 5.
“I don’t know if crossroads is the right (word) but there’s definitely a level you have to play at right now that is much different,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He has a much different responsibility now. He understands it. I haven’t seen the consistency that I like, he hasn’t seen the consistency he would like.”
Jordan played only 17 minutes in Game 4 and took only three shots. Meanwhile, Grizzlies front-liners Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 48 points and 22 rebounds.
“I didn’t see him controlling the game the way I thought he needed to and at that stage you have to go with someone you feel can,” Del Negro said. “Maybe Ryan Hollins could have played a few more minutes after looking at the tape.
“But those are decisions that are made during the heat of the battle and you go with your rotation as best you can. At this stage of the game you want to stay with your rotation, but if they’re not being productive, you have to look at other guys you have confidence in, that have produced throughout the series.”
Jordan took four shots in the first quarter Tuesday, more than he took in either game in Memphis. Del Negro listed what he expected from Jordan.
“Defensively, offensively, being a threat out there on the glass, using his length, athleticism,” Del Negro said. “But it’s up to him to get out there and earn his minutes and work through anything that’s thrown at him during the game.”