GRIFFIN MISSES GAME IN D.C. WITH STRAINED HAMSTRING
WASHINGTON–Blake Griffin looked dejected as he limped down the team’s tunnel about six minutes before the Clippers and Wizards were introduced at Verizon Center Monday night.
The three-time All-Star was headed for the locker room where shortly thereafter he would be ruled out with a strained left hamstring. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said Griffin originally tweaked his hamstring in the team's two-point loss at Boston Sunday, but he played through it and didn't think anything of it. That changed after Griffin warmed up Monday and was said to have re-aggravated the injury. He is listed as day-to-day moving forward.
Griffin leads the Clippers in scoring and rebounding and is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
“We were walking out. He was walking in,” Del Negro said when asked about the timing of when he found out Griffin would not play. “I knew [his hamstring] was bothering him. Big picture; be smart.”
It was the first game Griffin has been forced to sit out since his NBA debut was delayed by a knee injury. He had 197 consecutive starts since Oct. 27, 2010. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook holds the NBA’s longest active consecutive games streak with 360 after he started for Oklahoma City Monday.
Lamar Odom, who had three points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the final minute, started in Griffin’s place and said he found out a few minutes before the game tipped that Griffin was not available. Center DeAndre Jordan recorded a career-high 22 rebounds in 40 minutes next to Odom.
“I didn’t know at all [that Griffin was injured],” Jordan said. “But this is the NBA, guys get hurt. It’s just what happens. [Odom] was ready to come in. He played big minutes for us. He passed the ball well. He grabbed a lot of rebounds tonight and guys will be able to step in and be ready.”
At times, particularly with Odom in relative foul trouble for portions of the second half, Del Negro went small with Matt Barnes or Grant Hill playing power forward and also employed a variety of zone defense looks to Washington.
Griffin, who is also nursing a sore left ankle, was one of three Clippers starters absent from the lineup in the nation’s capital. Fellow All-Star Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap) missed his ninth game in a row and 11th in the last 13, while guard Chauncey Billups has been out since Dec. 3 with peroneal tendinitis in his left foot.
“Blake’s a big piece of our team,” said Eric Bledsoe, who had 17 points starting in place of Paul. “Just as much as Chris, so everybody’s just having to step their game up even more since Blake isn’t playing.”
The wave of injuries has been something of a common theme for L.A. over the last few weeks. Jamal Crawford has played the last two games with a nasal fracture. Ronny Turiaf (elbow) and Willie Green (knee) are playing through nagging injuries. And Grant Hill is still working his way back into shape after missing the first 36 games with a bone bruise in his right knee. In effect, the Clippers have not been at full strength at any point this season.
“It’s frustrating because we’re giving back a lot of what we built up earlier,” Del Negro said. “But you can’t control the injuries. You can’t control the schedule. You can’t control so many guys being out. But we can’t use that as an excuse.”
A month ago, the Clippers (34-16) owned the league’s best record and entered 2013 on a 17-game winning streak. But as the injuries mounted the team has played at or around .500 basketball since. Griffin’s absence Monday was adds to a list of minor concerns, but according to Jordan, it’s just another piece of adversity in a grinding season.
“Teams all around the league have guys that are out, guys that aren’t playing for the rest of the season,” Jordan said. “These guys are just out for a limited period of time, so we just have to adjust while they’re gone and guys will come back healthy and it’s a long race, so we’ll be alright.”