The Los Angeles Clippers can breathe again.
After three straight gruesome losses against Cleveland, Toronto and Oklahoma City, the Clips bounced back Monday with a needed 115-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The win comes on the same day Blake Griffin went under the knife for elbow surgery as the result of a staph infection. The Clippers are in dire straits without Griffin, facing a tough schedule while finding themselves in the bottom half of the playoff bracket.
On Monday, the Clips other frontcourt star stepped up in the absence of Griffin. After the Mavericks lost both Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler to injuries in the first quarter, the Clippers dominated. DeAndre Jordan had a monster game, scoring 21 points and racking up 27 rebounds with Chandler out of the game. He even overcame his typical free throw woes to shoot a respectable 6-of-9 from the charity stripe. Chris Paul added 25 points and Jamal Crawford came off the bench with 22 of his own.
The win will likely boost the team's confidence after three big losses to quality opponents. Los Angeles still has serious depth issues, and they will need Griffin to excel in the playoffs, but Monday should give the Clips some hope they can remain afloat with Griffin sidelined.
Playing without a star is familiar territory for the Clippers. Last season, Paul injured his shoulder and missed 19 games, but Griffin carried the team to a 13-6 record during that stretch and thrust himself into the MVP discussion.
Monday's loss leaves the Mavericks tied with L.A. and San Antonio in the loss column at 19.
Dallas is now facing their own injury crisis. Point guard Rajon Rondo is already out with multiple facial fractures, and now Chandler and Ellis could miss some time as well.
Although the extended All-Star break may mitigate some of the injury woes, one bad stretch in the West could put the Mavs or Clips in a dog fight for the last playoff spot with Oklahoma City, Phoenix and New Orleans.
Eight of L.A.'s next 10 games come against teams in the top-eight of either conference, although it's possible Griffin returns before the end of that stretch. Dallas has a slightly more forgiving schedule, with four of its next 11 coming against sub-.500 squads.
Whatever happens, a race that looked like it would be just for the final spot in the West, is now a little more open as teams scramble in the wake of injuries.