It’s my fault. I literally wrote this in the preview for today’s game:
“If it all goes to hell in the next few weeks and DJ and LouWill end up sharing the same iron lung or something, you can blame me for jinxing it.”
While DJ and LouWill remained upright in the Clippers’ fairly easy 121-106 over the other L.A. basketball team, Clipper Nation’s joy over Blake Griffin’s long-awaited return was tempered by what looks to be another serious injury to a key rotation player.
Shooting guard Austin Rivers left the game with a reported Achilles strain late in the third quarter. It looked bad.
We’ll know more about the extent of the injury tomorrow. But Achilles are serious business. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t miss extended time.
Austin had been playing some of his best basketball of late, including absolute gems where he dropped 30-plus on the Grizzlies and Rockets. He looked to be having another “Wow Austin looks really good” game early on in this one too, scoring 10 of the Clippers’ first 14 points as the team jumped out to an early double digit lead they never relinquished.
It really felt like the basketball gods were just fucking with Austin tonight. His hot start was rudely interrupted in the second quarter by professional over-the-back artist Andrew Bogut in an awkward play where Austin’s elbow appeared to bend in seven different directions while battling for a rebound. After falling to the floor and clutching his arm, he was helped to the locker room. Clipper Nation held its breadth for the report that Austin would need a double amputation, after Jason Powell cut off the wrong arm.
But it turned out Austin was just fine, and he returned to the game. We thought we were in the clear, and went back to worrying about flagrant fouls on Blake. And then...well, Jeanne kind of nailed it.
How big of a loss is this to the Clippers? Griffin’s return is more important, and should lessen the blow. But it’s going to be a hell of a lot harder to make a run towards the postseason when your two best perimeter defenders (PBEV and Austin) aren’t playing, not to mention the “I can take over a game too” offensive spark he increasingly provides.
Let’s just hope we get some positive news tomorrow.
Alright, Stop Bumming Us Out. How Did Blake Play?
He played okay. Griffin’s line was very Griffin-like—24, 6, and 6 over 32 minutes, the last ten of which Clipper fans spent wondering whether a minutes restriction literally means the length of the entire game. But his team-leading point production came on 6-of-15 shooting, which ain’t so hot (and honestly kind of what Blake was doing before the injury). And his defense was lackadaisical.
Physically, while you could tell Griffin was kind of easing himself into the game early, he really did look like the same Blake we saw this season before the MCL sprain. He attacked the basket a few times with the aggression you’d expect, got to the line 12 times, tried to annihilate Julius Randle on a dunk a la Pau Gasol from years ago. That’s good news.
What about the game?
It was kind of a snoozer. The Clippers jumped out to an early lead, including a 9-0 run to start the game 30 seconds after the Lakers broadcasters finished talking about how amped the Lakers were after some behind-closed-doors team meeting. That run included this sexy thing:
On strong play form Austin and a solid bench performance led by Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers carried a 62-48 lead into halftime. The Lakers cut that lead to seven early in the third quarter, mostly because the Clippers came out with a “good god these guys are still this shitty?” vibe out of halftime. But order was restored with a couple DeAndre lobs and some more good play from Harrell. Also it didn’t hurt that the Lakers shot 3 of 19 from three for the game. Or that Brandon Ingram looked MUCH worse than his 8 for 20 line would suggest.