As we pass the halfway mark, teams are starting to cement themselves as contenders or pretenders barring any unforeseen injuries. Well unfortunately for the Clippers, that injury just happened. All-Star power forward Blake Griffin will require surgery on his right elbow due to a staph infection. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action.
When asked on the extent of the injury, head coach Doc Rivers said he hoped to have Griffin back in about ten days. However he admitted he knows that is a stretch and it is more likely to take Griffin about a month to come back from the surgery. Now Rivers and company are forced to replace Griffin’s productivity to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.
In the offseason the Clippers signed big man Spencer Hawes with hopes he would be the perfect big man to compliment Griffin and Deandre Jordan. He has been a disappointment to say the least. Hawes looks lost at times on the court and is still finding his rhythm with his teammates. But now he won’t have much time to get adjusted, as he will slide into the starting lineup in place of Blake Griffin.
Honestly, the biggest issue is staying in contention of the playoff race. Currently, the Clippers have a 5 ½ game lead over the Pelicans who sit ninth in the West. However, Oklahoma City is also creeping up to contend for that eighth and final playoff spot. I’m not suggesting the Clippers are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs, but if Griffin is out for about a month, the race will definitely tighten up for the final month of the regular season.
The Clippers face their toughest stretch of the schedule in the next few weeks, which is the exact amount Griffin is expected to miss. Let’s say he misses a month, in that time frame the Clippers play the Rockets twice, the Grizzlies twice, Spurs, Mavs, Blazers, and Warriors all once. That is an insane stretch for a team that will be playing without arguably their most important player.
And to make matters worse, the Pelicans have been making a push lately. Anthony Davis as MVP is gaining more and more traction as his team continues to fight for playoff contention. And quietly Tyreke Evans is posting gaudy numbers lately. The Thunder are also right there fighting for that eighth spot. The Thunder are desperately awaiting the All-Star break so they can get Durant fully healthy and make their run to grab that eighth spot.
So, yes the Clippers should feel a bit pressured. They are one small collapse away from losing their footing in the playoff race.