December 23, 2014

From infighting to last-second finishes, there's been no shortage of drama with the Los Angeles Clippers of late.

As they prepare for a longer-than-expected absence from Blake Griffin, the Clippers seek a Hollywood ending to their road trip Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

Griffin returned to Los Angeles midway through this five-game trek, presumably to rehab the partially torn left quadriceps tendon that's sidelined the star forward since Dec. 26. It was later revealed he fractured his right hand from punching team equipment manager Matias Testi Saturday night during the team's visit to Toronto, an injury the Clippers confirmed Tuesday.

In a joint statement in which owner Steve Ballmer and coach Doc Rivers publicly admonished Griffin for his actions, the Clippers said he will miss an additional 4 to 6 weeks.

''This conduct has no place in our organization and this incident does not represent who we are as a team,'' the statement read. "We are conducting a full investigation with assistance from the NBA. At the conclusion of the investigation, appropriate action will be taken."

Griffin's absence hasn't hurt Los Angeles (29-16) much on the court. The Clippers won their first nine games and improved to 12-3 without him following Tuesday's 91-89 victory at Indiana, where they overcame an eight-point third-quarter deficit and survived Paul George's missed 3-pointer in the final seconds.

''With all the stuff in the last 48 hours, we always say it's the game that brings a team back,'' Rivers said. ''You could feel that (Tuesday). That was a good win for our team.''

Los Angeles has been able to offset Griffin's 23.2 points per game mostly by the continued hot shooting of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. The backcourt duo combined to go 8 of 18 from 3-point range against the Pacers, with Paul leading the comeback by recording 19 of his 26 points in the second half.

Paul is 26 of 46 from beyond the arc in averaging 22.6 points over his last nine games, while Redick is 23 of 44 and has averaged 20.3 in his past six.

Since Dec. 26, the Clippers rank among the league leaders in 3-pointers made (11.7 per game) and 3-point percentage (40.2).

Griffin's production may be harder to replace in this matchup, as he's averaged 24.6 points on 57.0 percent shooting in his last five against the Hawks. He totaled 47 points and 21 rebounds in last season's two meetings, both Atlanta wins.

The Clippers have lost seven straight in Atlanta, including a 107-104 defeat last season, since a 121-97 win in February 2009.

Atlanta (27-19) returns home in a more harmonious mood after ending a tough four-game western trip on a positive note. After a pair of three-point losses to Sacramento and Phoenix - the latter on a buzzer-beating 3 - the Hawks dominated Denver most of the way in Monday's 119-105 victory.

The Hawks shot 50 percent after struggling offensively in their two previous defeats, managing just 88 points against Sacramento and 95 versus Phoenix.

''It was a much more focused effort,'' center Al Horford said. ''You want to try to end this road trip on a good note, so it was important for us to come out ready from the beginning.''

Having Paul Millsap back helped as well. The versatile forward, who missed the Phoenix game attending his grandfather's funeral, had 22 points and nine rebounds.

The Hawks are 25-3 when scoring 98 or more this season, while the Clippers are 19-2 when allowing 99 or less.

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