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Injuries in Game 4 derail Clippers' postseason plan

Chris Paul's broken right hand (plus a flare up of Blake Griffin's quad injury) puts L.A.'s playoff run in serious peril

POSTED: Apr 26, 2016 8:12 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper

NBA.com

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Inside The NBA: Chris Paul's Injury

Shaq, Kenny and Chuck discuss Chris Paul's hand injury and what impact it will have on the Clippers.

Chris Paul knew.

The way he sat on the bench, the way he stared into some far-away place as emotions appeared to ricochet around his brain, a mix of disbelief and disgust on his face, he could tell even before the short walk to the visitor's locker room that the season had just turned in a staggering way.

Chris Paul Injury

Chris Paul is taken to the locker room after appearing to injure his wrist.

Paul was leaning back in the chair midway through the third quarter Monday night, his left arm draped over the top of the adjacent chair, a relaxed position while his mood was anything but. It's like he couldn't believe how everything had gone so wrong so fast. Then, when CP3 did stand up and walk to the locker room to confirm the bad news, he didn't get more than a few steps before lashing out in frustration with his right leg, kicking what appeared to be a cushion on the floor in front of the Clippers bench.

There was not any attempt to hide the emotions because they would be impossible to bottle up, not from Paul as he left the court in uniform for what may have been the final time this season and not from teammates as they dressed afterward in near silence for the charter flight back to Los Angeles and the new series against the Trail Blazers. The Clippers had been rocked Monday night at Moda Center and there was no way to deny it.

Clippers vs. Blazers: Game 4

Al-Farouq Aminu leads a balanced attack with 30 points with ten boards to lead Portland over the Clippers, 98-84.

Rocked to the core in a way few teams have ever experienced, to be more specific. The 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first round was gone, replaced by the whiplash of 2-2 after Portland followed a Game 3 win Saturday with tonight's 98-84 victory.

Paul was gone, the victim of a fractured right hand in as he tried to slow Gerald Henderson driving to the basket in the third quarter, an injury that could sideline him weeks, although the Clippers will wait for another evaluation Tuesday before putting a timeline on his return. And Blake Griffin may be gone, at least temporarily, with coach Doc Rivers saying Griffin is 50-50 for Game 5 in Los Angeles after re-injuring the quadriceps tendon in his left leg, the injury that cost him much of the regular season.

I just feel bad for him personally because I know how much he puts into the game and how much he gives of himself to the team. You get Blake back (late in the regular season), you lose Chris. It's tough. A tough deal.

– Clippers guard Jamal Crawford

It was about 2 ½ hours Monday that could last months.

"A major, major blow," guard Jamal Crawford said not long after Paul left with his hand in a cast and his arm in a sling. "I just feel bad for him personally because I know how much he puts into the game and how much he gives of himself to the team. You get Blake back (late in the regular season), you lose Chris. It's tough. A tough deal."

The chances of a long playoff run would have been reduced to a microscopic number without Paul, only now the Clippers have to come together in a big way just to get out of the first round while getting worked over by the likes of Mason Plumlee (21 rebounds and nine assists in Game 3, followed by 14 boards and 10 assists in Game 4), Al-Farouq Aminu (30 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4) and Ed Davis (12 rebounds in Game 4).

L.A. doesn't just have the health issues, after all. L.A. has the health issues mixed with a pressing opponent issue, a resilient Trail Blazers team that spent the regular season upending expectations. The Blazers have now charged back into the series and they enter Game 5 with the momentum and a real opportunity to do more than scare the Clips.

Griffin Leaves With Injury

Blake Griffin leaves the game late in the 4th quarter gripping his left quad.

Between tonight and about 7:30 p.m. PT Wednesday, all the Clippers need to do is replace their star point guard, possibly replace Griffin and maybe even overhaul the lineup by choosing to not simply promote the backups. Rivers said, for example, that it could be more than a matter of tabbing Austin Rivers as Paul's replacement because "we may have to make a lot of changes to create scoring" if Griffin and Paul are both out. That could mean Crawford instead of Austin Rivers.

"We have to take a very collective approach," guard J.J. Redick said. "Everybody has to do a little more. We've been in this situation before. We played for a lot of stretches without Blake this year. I'm not saying he's going to be out, but he's obviously feeling something in his quad. And three years ago we had to play for a long stretch without Chris. Last year in the playoffs, the first two games in Houston we had to play without Chris. So we've done this before. It's just got to be a collective effort."

Starting right away.

"There's no shellshock," Doc Rivers said. "What it is is they love their players, their teammates, and Chris is taking this very hard. He's worked all year to get back to the playoffs and for this to happen to him, he's an emotional guy and so I think our guys, it's a neat family and it's things you don't ever see, like you guys will never see, but it was a nice thing in the locker room. Everybody, the whole team, is in the locker room and it's nice in that way. But the reality is that you don't have Chris Paul."

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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