According to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Blake Griffin will sit tonight’s game in Brooklyn for rest, with Paul Pierce replacing him in the starting lineup.
Blake Griffin will rest tonight. Paul Pierce will start.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) November 29, 2016
Griffin was previously banged up following being kicked in the leg against Detroit last Friday, which resulted in calf swelling.
Paul Pierce started 38 games at Power Forward for the Clippers last year when Griffin was injured with a torn quadriceps muscle and suspended for an altercation with a team employee. While Pierce struggled individually, the Clippers’ starting unit was strong enough to make up for his deficiencies and still be a productive lineup. Even though Pierce shot just 31% from deep last season, his reputation still demands attention from opponents and spaces the floor, allowing for DeAndre Jordan to reach a new level of productivity on rim dives. Even though the Clippers’ backup forwards outperformed Pierce, the bench unit would not have been able to overcome his defensive deficiencies.
Pierce has been squarely out of the rotation this season, playing just 17 minutes total in two appearances when Wesley Johnson was injured.
Griffin’s rest will likely also mean an increase in minutes for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Johnson, the current rotation players who can play the power forward position. Johnson especially should see some minutes alongside the rest of the starters.
Brandon Bass, who has played spot minutes as an emergency big man, could see minutes tonight in the power forward role, especially if Pierce struggles early and doesn’t see many minutes.
This benching comes at an interesting time for the Clippers, who are undoubtedly in their worst stretch of the young season. They just suffered two bad losses at the hands of the undermanned Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, with a lot of talk regarding the team’s lack of focus and intensity. While the lowly Brooklyn Nets, who the Clippers handled easily by 32 points earlier this month, represent a game where you can get away with resting a star, it’s also another sign of a lack of urgency.
The Clippers have their biggest game of the year so far coming up on Thursday against the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopefully they’ll be able to take care of business tonight without Griffin, and he’ll be back to 100% for a tough fight against the NBA’s best.