Chris Paul Leaves Game With Rib Strain


Rowan Kavner

LOS ANGELES - Chris Paul left Monday’s game against the Trail Blazers with a rib muscle strain and didn’t return.

It was not immediately apparent how the injury occurred, but Paul was favoring his ribs and left the game early in the third quarter after posting 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes.

Paul will be reevaluated before a determination is made on the length of his absence. Portland point guard Damian Lillard (abdominal pain) also left the game early and didn’t return.

DeAndre Jordan said with Paul out, Blake Griffin has to become more of a passer, but he added that Austin Rivers has proven he can play.

“You can’t replace Chris, obviously,” Jordan said. “But we have to learn to play with somebody down. I may be down a game, Blake might be out. You have to learn to play without guys. That’s why we have such a deep team this year. Injuries happen, things happen, and we want to be able to fill that void.”

Paul had at least 17 points and eight assists in each of his previous three games and posted double-doubles in the two games prior to that. Paul’s averaging 17.5 points, 8.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game this year.

After playing all 82 regular season games last year, it’s been a tough injury stretch for Paul. The All-Star point guard strained his hamstring in the playoffs against the Spurs and has dealt with a fractured finger, a strained groin and now a rib issue early this season. The groin injury kept Paul out for three games earlier this year.

Head coach Doc Rivers liked the pace the Clippers still managed to play with when Paul left the game, and he thought Austin Rivers picked up his play defensively. Austin Rivers will have to be counted on to do that, and Doc Rivers said the Clippers will need to look to Griffin more now to handle the ball.

“Austin and Blake, it’s a combination,” Doc Rivers said. “They share the ball. Whenever Chris is out, Blake and the point guard do the ball-handling duties. It’s nice when you have a guy like Blake that can do stuff like that.”

The last game Paul missed, Griffin stepped up his role as a facilitator with a season-high nine assists against Detroit on Nov. 14. Griffin said his role as a facilitator is the biggest difference for him when Paul is out, but he also said he can’t let Paul’s absence take him out of his game from a scoring standpoint.

Griffin’s scored at least 20 points each of his last four games, including a 40-point performance during that stretch, and is averaging 25.1 points per game this season.

“With CP out, he always has the ball and he’s always calling plays and getting us into sets,” Griffin said. “A lot of times, I try to take on a little bit of that. But we have guys capable of stepping up and doing those things as well. I try not to mentally change my role.”