Here is a ray of hope for Clippers fans: Last season, Los Angeles had to play a couple of playoff games without Chris Paul (at the start of the second round) due to a strained right hamstring and the Clippers still won those games.
Here’s the big dark cloud for Clipper fans: They won those games because Blake Griffin stepped up with monster games.
This season the Clippers are going to have to get by Portland in the first round without either of them — Chris Paul is out indefinitely after breaking his hand, and Blake Griffin’s quad injury has him out for the rest of the playoffs.
Tied 2-2, this is now a two-out-of-three series, but Los Angeles holds home court. Portland has the momentum, but over a few games with unconventional lineups, strange runs have happened. Jamal Crawford is fully capable of getting hot and winning a game. Good Jeff Green can make his once-every-two-weeks appearance and swing a game. Even Austin Rivers can have big nights.
Yes, Clippers fans, I’m saying there’s a chance.
I wouldn’t get too optimistic, most of the numbers suggest the Clippers are in trouble. Big trouble.
• Paul and Griffin were on the court together for nearly 60 percent of the first four games this series and the Clippers were +7.2 per 100 when they were paired.
• The Clippers are -4 these playoffs when Paul is off the floor.
• Over the course of this season, the Clippers played 1,294 minutes without either one of them on the court and the Clippers were outscored by 5.3 points per 48 minutes when they both sat (via ESPN stats and info).
• The Clippers projected starting lineup for Game 5 — Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan — has played exactly zero minutes together this season. The Clippers have never had a game where Redick, Jordan, and Jamal Crawford suited up but Paul and Griffin didn’t.
The point is, nobody knows exactly what to expect from these Clippers. Over a long stretch of ground they are not going to be nearly as good without two elite players, but could they win two-out-of-three against Portland (with two games at home)? It’s possible. The Ewing Theory could kick in. The Clippers will need Redick (battling a bruised heel) and Jordan to play significant roles, Crawford’s perpetual green light just got greener (if that’s possible), and the Clippers are going to have to be efficient on offense without CP3. More importantly, their trapping defense against Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum has to be even more intense (then they need to hope Al-Faruq Aminu doesn’t stay hot from the outside). That may be where they miss Paul most, he was very good this series defensively on Lillard.
But there is hope.
Look at it this way, the most-used lineup for the Clippers in the playoffs without Paul or Griffin is Rivers, Crawford, Wesley Johnson, Green, and Cole Aldrich, and it is +22.1 per 100 possessions (in a small sample size against reserves, but still it’s some hope for Clipper fans).
Stranger things have happened. There is a chance.