Clippers choose health over home court
April, 25, 2012
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
We won't know for around two weeks whether the Los Angeles Clippers' decision to rest Chris Paul and his injured groin in Wednesday's regular-season finale against the New York Knicks was savvy or stupid, but we do know one thing right away.
It was risky -- very risky.
In sitting Paul and losing 99-93 to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Clippers have now handed over control for home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs to their opponents, the Memphis Grizzlies. As long as the Grizzlies win at home against Orlando on Thursday -- likely considering the Magic are already locked into the No. 6 seed in the East -- the Clippers are going to open up the playoffs in Memphis.
If they go on to suffer, say, a six- or seven-game series loss at the hands of the Grizzlies, the Clippers could have Wednesday's loss to blame. The Knicks didn't even play their starters late in the game, in a clear indication they didn't need to win. There's a definite argument they'd be better be off losing and taking the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with Chicago rather than the No. 7 seed and a date with Miami.
But the Clippers did need to win. Heck, they needed to win each of their last three road games at Phoenix, Atlanta and New York, or at least one of the three, and they couldn't win any. They finished the regular season with an under-.500 record on the road -- 16 wins and 17 losses.
So it'll be hard to feel confident in their chances against the Grizzlies if they indeed have to start out on the road. They beat Memphis twice this year, but both wins came at Staples Center. The Clippers lost by nine in Memphis earlier this month.
Paul strained his left groin in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' Tuesday night loss in Atlanta. He was deemed day-to-day afterward and termed questionable for Wednesday's game. If he needed the night off to be fully healthy for Saturday's likely series opener, then the decision to sit him is definitely defensible. But if he felt good enough to go at three-quarters speed, then, well ... it very well could be questioned.
How did the Clippers lose Wednesday's game?
Their defensive rotations were poor for the first 40 or so minutes of the, first of all. Eric Bledsoe took over the point for Paul and played well in stretches but didn't have a great game. Randy Foye took over some of the scoring and had a nice third quarter but made only nine of his 23 shots. Blake Griffin shot 11-of-14 from the field but only 7-of-14 from the free-throw line.
It might be hard to translate that effort into one of a playoff caliber in three days. But the Clippers didn't appear too worried about that afterward. Griffin admitted he was a "little concerned" about the lack of momentum, but coach Vinny Del Negro wasn't having any of it.
“We played two playoff teams," Del Negro told reporters in New York when asked about the way his team's regular season ended. "We didn’t play particularly well last night, we played better tonight and Chris didn’t play.
"We have to regroup, go back home, see who we are playing and go from there.”
Well, the Clippers know who they are playing. They just don't know for sure yet where that series is going to start, and they lost their chance to control that Wednesday night.