Blake Griffin suffered a high right ankle sprain during practice on Monday and was forced from action early during the Clippers' 103-93 loss in Game 5 to the Grizzlies on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
Although Griffin took his usual place in the starting lineup, coach Vinny Del Negro pulled his All-Star forward from the game for good with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter. Griffin finished with four points (on two-for-seven shooting), five rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes. Del Negro told reporters after the game that he does not yet know how well Griffin will be able to play in Game 6, set for Memphis on Friday.
"We'll see," Del Negro said. "It's just an unfortunate thing that happened [Monday]."
The Orange County Register reported that Griffin's ankle was "really swollen and purple" after the game. Griffin was transported on a cart both before and after Tuesday night's game.
Del Negro explained that Griffin suffered the injury during a "half-speed" drill for posts players when his right foot came down on Lamar Odom's foot.
"Freak accident," Del Negro said. "It was pretty bad. I give Blake a lot of credit, he's got a lot of swelling in there. Therapy all night, therapy all day, battled through it. He had came out in limited minutes, a couple of baskets, five assists, five rebounds, he was active. As the game went on, it just got fatigued and sore and worse and worse. You could see in the third [quarter] that he was struggling to move a little bit and that's when I just pulled the plug on that. It just didn't make sense. I really wanted to protect him."
Griffin, who was selected to his third All-Star Game in February, made 80 appearances this season. Game 6 now represents a win-or-go-home fork in the road for the Clippers, who trail the Grizzlies 3-2 after Tuesday.
"I know how hard he's worked and it's unfortunate timing," Del Negro said.
Griffin, 24, averaged 18 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game this year.
"You can't just replace Blake Griffin with one person," Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul said, after putting up a game-high 35 points, six rebounds and four assists in 42 minutes. "It's going to have to be by committee. ... He tried to give it a go, as we all knew he would. But what can you do?" Memphis was led by 25 points and 11 rebounds from Zach Randolph and 21 points and eight rebounds from Marc Gasol.