Rowan Kavner Digital Content Coordinator
LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul made his first six shots Monday night, but it’s the six weeks he’ll miss going forward that matter much more for the Clippers.
Paul underwent surgery on his right hand Tuesday morning and will be reevaluated in four to six weeks after fracturing his third metacarpal in the third quarter of Game 4.
It’s a devastating hit for a Clippers team that relied on Paul to score at least 25 points in each of his last five playoff games entering Monday night, not to mention his ability to distribute and the calming influence he provides on a nightly basis.
“Major, major blow,” said Jamal Crawford. “I just feel bad for him personally, because I know how much he puts into the game and how much he gives himself for the team.”
Paul left Moda Center in a cast and a sling after scoring 16 points and dishing out four assists with three steals in Game 4, despite playing only 25 minutes.
He averaged 23.8 points and 7.8 assists through four games of the series and also served as the primary defender on Damian Lillard.
It’s his defensive assignments he takes more pride in than anything.
Prior to Game 4, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers praised the job Paul’s done on the defensive end this year, particularly with the Clippers changing the scheme to keep DeAndre Jordan under the basket, subsequently putting more pressure on the Clippers’ guards.
That was a tough decision for Rivers because of the load his 30-year-old star point guard already has to carry.
“All of a sudden, we’re asking him to get over every screen and force a guy into the paint,” Rivers said. “That takes a physical beating to do that. When your best player is Chris, you have to give that some pause – like, ‘should we do it?’ – and at the end of the day we decided to do it.”
Unsurprisingly, Paul had no issues with it, and the Clippers finished in the top five in the league defensively this season. Paul also stayed relatively healthy, playing in 74 games while averaging 19.5 points and 10 assists.
“He’s just competitive,” Rivers said. “You would hope everyone’s that way. They’re not, obviously. Chris doesn’t like when people score.”
That’s just one of the many traits the Clippers will miss in Paul, who’s done for the remainder of the series, which is now tied up as the Clippers head back home to Los Angeles.
“My job as a coach is figuring out a way to get us up and ready for Game 5,” Rivers said. “There’s nobody probably in the league that’s going to replace Chris Paul….But as a group, everybody pitches in.”
That whole group gathered in the medical room after Game 4 to check on Paul and try to keep his spirits up. Everyone realized the significance of the injury and the enormity of the loss, but the reserves also see a chance to provide a boost the Clippers will need without their star point guard if they want to get out of the first round.