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Blake Griffin injury a big blow to Clippers

Photo Credit: BleacherReport.com

Photo Credit: BleacherReport.com

Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin will undergo surgery to remove a staph infection in his right elbow on Monday, the team announced before a 131-108 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Griffin will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, and he could miss anywhere from two-to-six weeks. Damian Lillard has taken Griffin’s place in the All-Star Game.

Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists on the season, and this injury is obviously a huge blow to Los Angeles. With a fourth consecutive loss on Sunday, the Clippers are 33-19 with a brutal upcoming schedule. The remainder of February includes two games each against the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets, as well as games against the Dallas Mavericks (on Monday night) and San Antonio Spurs. The first half of March features games against the Thunder, Mavericks, Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors.

The All-Star break will help mitigate some of the damage, but if Griffin is out closer to six weeks rather than two, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Los Angeles falls out of the Western Conference playoff picture altogether. The Clippers are 5½ games ahead of the ninth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, but a string of losses could allow the Pelicans or the Thunder to make a run.

Spencer Hawes started for Griffin against Oklahoma City, and while Hawes had 17 points, he had one rebound and zero assists in 35 minutes. Hawes was also a team-worst -28 for the game. The Clippers invested the full mid-level exception in the big man this past offseason, hard-capping the team, but he has been a huge disappointment.

Even when Griffin was healthy and Hawes was coming off the bench, the frontcourt depth was a problem for Los Angeles. It’ll look even worse now with Hawes starting, as the primary bigs off the bench are now Glen Davis, Ekpe Udoh and Hedo Turkoglu. Adding injury to insult was Davis leaving the Thunder loss with back spasms and not returning.

Considering how poor the depth is, it’s no surprise that the Clippers have been a wreck offensively when Griffin (or most of the starters for that matter) hit the bench. Los Angeles has scored 114.0 points per 100 possessions with the big man on the court this season, compared to just 100.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench, per NBA.com. Only Chris Paul has a bigger differential, and the point guard is going to have to step up in a big way with Griffin sidelined. Paul has had a fantastic season, but he’s going to carry quite a heavy burden over these next few weeks.

As of right now, the Clippers have 18/1 odds to win the 2015 NBA championship, according to Bovada. That’s down from 14/1 on Jan. 20, and the odds could get even worse if Los Angeles continues to slip with Griffin on the pine. Look for Doc Rivers to try and make a move to add some frontcourt help, but the Clippers have limited flexibility, and any move likely won’t make a big impact. Los Angeles just has to hope Griffin is back sooner rather than later.


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