Chris Paul was expected to miss 6-8 weeks following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. With his return to the L.A. Clippers expected to come sometime between March 1st and March 15th, Paul surprised everyone except his team when he was medically cleared to return on February 22nd and officially returned tonight against the San Antonio Spurs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in a winning effort as the Spurs defeated the Clippers for the first time in three tries this season.
Paul finished with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals but shot just 6-14 from the field (42.8%) and committed an uncharacteristic four turnovers against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.
“Chris hadn’t played and you could see that,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We played on one side of the floor for most of the night. If felt like the same way when Blake came back the first game, we were moving, but we just weren’t in sync.”
Blake Griffin returned from arthroscopic knee surgery back on January 24th when the Clippers took on the Philadelphia 76ers on the road. Griffin had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, but also had six turnovers. Tonight was a similar game for the Clippers with the return of Paul following a five-week absence.
“You have to figure out how to play without Chris Paul while he is not there and you get into somewhat of a groove,” said Griffin. “Obviously, that groove is not as food as if we had him. So then when you add somebody back in, it’s about re-familiarizing yourself with the style of the player.”
Griffin and Paul have both had extended absences due to surgery this season, and the last time they played together was December 18th against the Washington Wizards. Griffin’s knee surgery and Paul’s hamstring/thumb injury has forced the Clippers to tinker with lineups for the better part of two months.
All injuries considered, Rivers said he’ll take it.
“When you factor in that they’ve missed a lot of games and we have the record that that we have, I think any coach would take the record that we’ve had (considering our injuries).”
The Clippers are 27-10 with Paul and 8-13 without him while the team is 11-9 without Griffin and 24-14 without the forward.
“We have dealt with so many different injuries in the past that everything is somewhat irrelevant until you get the whole crew out there. No matter how we play with Blake out or me out, we need both of us as well as everybody else to see what we really look like.”
L.A. has shown the ability to survive without Paul or Griffin, but now that they’re healthy again, they’ll look to regain their early season form that saw them go 14-2.