Clippers point guard Chris Paul goes to the court in an effort to get a loose… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
In what could have been a close-out game for the Clippers, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul spent much of the fourth quarter in an unusual position.
They were on the bench.
Griffin sat for nearly the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, nursing his sprained left knee. Paul was out for the first five minutes, resting his strained right hip.
They watched helplessly as Memphis erased the team's eight-point lead.
Paul reentered the game with 6:37 remaining when the Clippers' advantage had fallen to one point, 76-75. Griffin followed less than two minutes later.
The injured superstars attacked the basket, hustled and dived for loose balls -- but Paul, one of the league's ultimate closers, had only one point and twice as many turnovers in the fourth quarter. Griffin added only four points and one rebound in his closing stretch.
"You could see that Blake was hobbling and Chris was tentative," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.
It was an unfortunate injury combination for the Clippers, one that led to a 90-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series. Game 7 will be Sunday at Memphis.
Griffin, who finished with a team-high 17 points and five rebounds, seemed off-balance and in pain for much of the night.
He began the game with a visible limp. In one sequence in the third quarter, he dunked the ball, then fell onto the ground, looking as though he chose to absorb the landing with his whole body instead of jolting his injured knee.
Griffin acknowledged that he tempered his style of play, which is usually far more aggressive.
"Sometimes there's a move that I think I can normally make but not in that instance," Griffin said.
Paul also favored his injury.
"I couldn't move as much as I like to," Paul said.
The Clippers will need more from both in Game 7 if they are to move on to the second round.
"I think we were both trying to feel it out," Griffin said. "That all goes out the window Sunday.