LOS ANGELES — Once again, the Clippers’ hopes rest on Blake Griffin’s medical test results.
The five-time All-Star power forward sustained a left knee injury late during the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 120-115 home win over the Lakers on Monday. The full extent of his injury is not yet known, but it ended his night prematurely and will require additional testing on Tuesday.
As Griffin and Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball grappled for possession of the ball in the paint, Clippers guard Austin Rivers fell into Griffin’s left leg, causing it to twist awkwardly. Griffin initially stayed down on the court following the contact but then tried to shake off the injury, repeatedly flexing his left leg.
After Griffin labored for a few possessions, Clippers coach Doc Rivers decided to pull his star from the game. Griffin departed for the locker room while grabbing his jersey in frustration, finishing with 26 points (on 9-21 shooting), 11 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.
“It didn’t look good, obviously,” Rivers told reporters. “We just have to wait and see. What can you do? … He just couldn’t move [on defense].’
Rivers told reporters that Griffin’s exact diagnosis would remain unknown until further testing is completed on Tuesday. Griffin exited Staples Center under his own power, walking without crutches or a brace. He dressed in LA’s locker room like usual but did not take questions from reporters.
“He was not in high spirits,” Rivers acknowledged. “He was down. Right now, he’s where we are at: hoping that it was just a bang and that it hurt. But he’s down right now.”
The Clippers are in no position to lose Griffin, who serves as the face of the franchise and leads the team in points, assists and usage. Already this season, LA has lost forward Danilo Gallinari and point guards Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic to long-term injuries. At 8-11, the Clippers are outside of the West’s playoff picture following a recent nine-game losing streak, in real jeopardy of missing the postseason for the first time since 2011.
If Griffin misses real time, Rivers will need to turn to sixth-man-turned-starter Lou Williams, Austin Rivers, and DeAndre Jordan to try to pick up the offensive slack. In truth, LA’s stretched roster has no way to replace Griffin’s dependable scoring and dynamic play-making, at least until Gallinari’s return. Chris Paul shouldered the extra burden and served as a stabilizing force whenever Griffin went down in past years, but the All-Star point guard forced his way to the Rockets in an off-season trade.
“You don’t want injuries,” Rivers said. “When you have them, you just have to pull within and see if you can steal each game. That’s where we’re at right now. Every game is a game we’ve got to get. I don’t want to project out [into the future]. [Griffin] may be fine, and he may not be.”
The mounting concern around Griffin extends past just this injury and this season for the Clippers, who inked the 28-year-old former No. 1 pick to a five-year max contract worth $173 million in July. Griffin previously underwent surgery on his left knee in 2010 and has undergone multiple surgeries on his right knee, dating back to his college days at Oklahoma. He was also forced from action during LA’s first-round series against Utah with a right toe injury, and spent most of the summer rehabilitating.
LA has two days off before hosting Utah on Thursday.