He had already played close to 27 minutes with the injury he sustained late in the third quarter of Game 5 and head coach Vinny Del Negro was seemingly trying to conserve Griffin for the final push to close out the pesky Memphis Grizzlies.
Griffin replaced Reggie Evans with 5:05 left in the game. Less than two minutes earlier, Chris Paul, who was clearly limited by a strained right hip flexor, returned to the game as well.
They were not wanting for effort. Griffin crashed to floor and battled for loose balls and rebound, while Paul tried to push tempo and fought to stay in front of Mike Conley or O.J. Mayo or whoever else he was assigned to guard. But despite a team-high 17 points from Griffin and 11 points and seven assists from Paul, it was clear that neither were their All-Star selves.
Griffin and Paul, who played with a wrap around his hip, both said they were perhaps trying to see how their bodies would react to their respective injuries.
“I think we were both trying to feel it out,” Griffin said. “But that all goes out the window Sunday, I know what it feels like now.”
Paul added: “I think I started off the game favoring it or not sure about it and stuff like that, but I can’t do that Sunday. Sunday you’ve got to go out there, scrap, claw, whatever it is, because if you try to hold it back, if you lose it, you’ve got the whole summer to get healthy. But I’m not ready to start my summer.”
Earlier in the press conference, Paul referred to Griffin as a “warrior.”
And it was none more evident than a play in the third quarter when Griffin skidded across the floor, diving for a loose ball, and flipped it ahead to his buddy DeAndre Jordan for a dunk on the break. It was the kind of play that’s embodied Griffin’s two years on the court in L.A.
Still, reserve big man Reggie Evans said he could tell his teammates were in pain. “They hurt themselves last game. We didn’t have no practice. But I could tell they were hurting, though.”
Both Griffin and Paul received treatment for their injuries at the team’s facility on Thursday, after arriving home from Memphis in the early morning hours. Griffin underwent an MRI exam, which revealed no structural damage to his left knee. They officially entered Game 6 as game-time decisions. Del Negro announced that they’d start in his pregame interview session.
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