Published April 27, 2016
For the third straight year in the playoffs - all under Doc Rivers - the Los Angeles Clippers have been plagued by bad luck.
Now, they've lost their two All-Stars.
Blake Griffin is out for the rest of the postseason after aggravating his left quadriceps tendon and Chris Paul has undergone right hand surgery, leaving the Clippers without their top two players for the remainder of their first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"It's bum's luck three years in a row," Rivers said. "You just got to keep going. You wake up in the morning and you feel like we're going to find a way."
The franchise that began in Buffalo, moved to San Diego and then Los Angeles has never advanced past the second round, and the stunned Clippers head back home for Wednesday night's game tied 2-all with Portland.
The team said Griffin had an MRI that revealed no further structural damage to the quad that he originally injured Dec. 25. He missed 41 games and an additional four as punishment for punching the team's assistant equipment manager, returning April 3.
"You feel bad for Chris, you feel bad for Blake," said guard J.J. Redick, who is dealing with his own nagging left heel injury.
Paul had surgery to repair a hand fracture sustained in the third quarter of Monday night's 98-84 loss in Game 4. Griffin averaged 15 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Paul averaged 23.8 points, 7.3 assists and 4 rebounds in the series.
"We still have home court. No one has won a road game yet in this series," Rivers said. "Now we have to find a way of winning tomorrow and that's as far as we can think right now. My job with the guys is to make sure that they're ready and focused. It's easy when you have the injuries we have to think all kinds of other stuff."
Rivers has not yet decided who will start in place of Griffin and Paul.
"We've had 10 different lineups on the board," he said. "Most likely it will be a pretty big lineup."
In 2014, voice recordings of then-owner Donald Sterling surfaced during the playoffs in which he made racist comments. Last year, the Clippers were within a game of reaching the conference finals for the first time, only to blow a 3-1 lead and lose the last three by a combined 46 points to Houston.
"We have a very competitive basketball team and they have proven that all year," Rivers said. "We have won games before without key guys and we can win games in the future without key guys."
Paul controls the Clippers' offense like few others in the NBA. However, they installed a motion offense for when Paul wasn't on the floor this season, freeing up Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers while letting anyone else get the ball moving.
"We were very effective at it," Doc Rivers said. "Thank God we did that because now playing without him we'll be in motion for 48 minutes."
Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 30 points as Portland pulled away after Paul left Monday.
"It changes a lot," Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Their best player goes down. The guy who makes their offense go. It's unfortunate. You don't wish that on anybody, but they still have a really good team."
CJ McCollum added 19 points while Mason Plumlee had 14 rebounds and 10 assists for Portland, which is trying to become the first team to overcome a 2-0 deficit since Memphis came back against the Clippers in the first round in 2013.
"I think we came out and it was obvious that we weren't going to go away," Lillard told the Blazers' official website. " ... We came out and did the things that we did last game at an even higher level. Multiple guys stepped up. We had just a great group effort. I think everybody was locked in to what we needed to do as a team and we turned it up tonight from last game."