Well that didn't last long. The Clippers were completely healthy for the first time since the first week of the season on Wednesday versus Houston; in tonight's win over Denver, Eric Gordon reinjured his right wrist and will miss the team's upcoming 5 game road trip at least. EJ doesn't think the injury is as bad as the last time - which is a good thing I suppose, given that he missed 18 games the first time around, and there are only 19 games left in the season. Still, it seems pretty likely that he'll miss a significant portion of the remainder of the season. Sigh.
Gordon was hurt in a play eerily similar to the one on which he sprained the wrist in the first place. Both times it was Gordon going to the basket, and being fouled by an Eastern bloc center. That time it was Latvian Andris Biedrins; this time it was Russian Timofey Mozgov. Hey, comrades, I thought the Cold War was over! Mozgov's foul, straight across Gordon's face, and no where near the ball really, seemed deserving of a Flagrant foul, though it was not called. I wouldn't be surprised if the league upgrades it to a Flagrant upon review.
After Gordon headed back to the locker room in the second quarter, the Clippers immediately went into a funk. It's strange, because it's not as if EJ was carrying the team to that point - he'd scored only 5 points, on 1 of 5 shooting. But whether it's the ball movement or the spacing or the defense or the mojo, we all know that the Clippers are better with Gordon. When he left, they were up 15, and Craig Smith (selected to shoot the free throws by the Denver bench when Gordon was unable to continue) made one of two to make the lead 16. From that point, they were outscored 29 to 7 over the next 12 minutes and Denver took a two point lead.
But in the fourth quarter, the Clippers were carried by another Eric - rookie Eric Bledsoe. He scored a career high 20 points in the game, including 15 in the final period alone. He also had 7 steals, including a crucial one in the final seconds to more or less seal the game. It's clear that Bledsoe is a tantalizing talent - he's unbelievably athletic, and has the quickness to get to the rim and the strength to finish. When he figures out how to use his speed, but remain under control and still take care of the ball, he's going to be amazing. As indeed he was tonight. He opened the fourth quarter with a layup in the half court offense, then got a steal and lob fellow rookie to Al-Farouq Aminu then made a three. He made another three later in the quarter, after the Nuggets had once again trimmed the league. A game after Bledsoe had logged a measly 7 minutes, none in the second half, tonight he played the entire fourth quarter, deservedly so.
The other star for the Clippers tonight was, who else, Blake Griffin. The Nuggets defense tried to intimidate him and rough him up a bit. So all Griffin did was make 10 of 11 free throws. He also had 12 rebounds and 9 assists, coming within one assist of his first career triple double (I still think he's going to log a triple double at some point this season.)
This was a very solid win for the team. They had a lead and blew it, which is bad, but they had the composure to come back and retake control. But the loss of Gordon means that there will be very little rejoicing over win number 23.