Clippers guard Chris Paul, right, speaks with forward Blake Griffin during… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
It wasn't the best news, but it wasn't the worst news either.
The Clippers announced Thursday afternoon that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will be game-time decisions for Friday's Game 6 of the NBA first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies because of their injuries.
Griffin had an MRI exam on his sprained left knee Thursday that the Clippers said revealed no structural damage. The All-Star power forward was injured during the third quarter of Game 5 Wednesday night in Memphis.
He said after that game that he planned on playing Friday.
Paul received treatment on his strained right hip flexor that was injured during the fourth quarter of Game 5. Paul said after the game that he would definitely play in Game 6, though he also has a jammed right middle finger.
The Clippers own a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
If the Clippers win, they will meet the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday afternoon in San Antonio. If the Clippers lose to the Grizzlies, they must return to Memphis for a winner-take-all Game 7 that afternoon.
Either way, Griffin and Paul probably won't be 100% healthy.
"They are both pretty sore," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We got good news on Blake because there was no structural damage. Chris is just real sore. So we'll see tomorrow how they both are doing and go from there."
Griffin had surgery on the same knee during his first season in the NBA, forcing him to miss the entire 2009-10 season.
But Griffin said Wednesday night's injury was "not the same pain" he felt when he suffered a non-displaced stress fracture of his left patella during an exhibition game against New Orleans on Oct. 23, 2009.
Griffin said he initially thought the injury in Game 5 was "pretty serious," but that "the good thing is there's not much swelling."
Beside Griffin and Paul being injured, Clippers small forward Caron Butler has been playing despite a fractured left hand that he suffered in Game 1. And starting guard Chauncey Billups has been out since February because of a season-ending left Achilles' tendon injury.
"We just have to have a solid team effort tomorrow," Del Negro said. "Other guys are going to have to make plays. We've got to shoot better than we did [37.1%]. And it always comes down to controlling the glass against them, where they've hurt us, and obviously control our turnovers."
The Clippers have been out-rebounded in four of the five games. It didn't help that 6-foot-11 center DeAndre Jordan didn't have any rebounds in Game 5.
The Clippers, who didn't practice Thursday, are averaging 16.4 turnovers a game.
That's not all.
"We can't let Zach and Gasol get as comfortable as they did in the first quarter last night," Del Negro said. "In the other three quarters, we played them pretty even."
That would be Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who combined for 42 points and 17 rebounds in Game 5.
Both started strong, pounding the Clippers down low. Gasol had 12 of his 23 points in the first quarter and Randolph had 15 of his 19 in the first.
"It's going to take toughness," Griffin said after Game 5 about what it will take to win Game 6. "We know their backs are against the wall. So we know they are going to play tough. We're going to play the same, but we have to play tougher. We have to out-physical them, be the aggressive team right from the jump and hopefully some things go our way."
In the eyes of Kenyon Martin, it is pretty simple for the Clippers.
"We've got to go home and win," Martin said. "It ain't a two-game series for us. It's a one-game series."