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Injured Chris Paul, Blake Griffin remain Clippers' wild cards

The problem is it's not clear whether Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can regain the top level against the Spurs as they battle the pain.

May 16, 2012|By Broderick Turner

SAN ANTONIO — There was an interesting tweet from Magic Johnson on Wednesday, the Hall of Fame guard saying what so many in Clippers Nation want to believe and what the Clippers themselves firmly contend.

"The Clippers can win this series, but they are going to need both @blakegriffin & @CP3 to play not good, but great."

And therein lies the problem for the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.

It is impossible to know whether Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can deliver, as they have all season, because of their injuries.

Neither played at an All-Star level in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series that continues Thursday night with Game 2 at the AT&T Center.

The Clippers as a whole weren't good enough in the first game.

"After watching the film, we didn't do everything all bad," Paul said after practice Wednesday. "I think we've just got to contest a few more shots and limit our turnovers."

Griffin has a sprained left knee, and he rolled his left ankle during Game 1, which slowed him down as the game wore on.

He played just 28 minutes, only 3:22 in the fourth quarter.

"I feel better in the beginning," Griffin said. "And I've just got to do a better job of managing that so I have more left in the fourth, the third, the second half, really. I tried a new brace last night and it felt a little better. I'll keep doing those things and try to find any little thing that will help."

Paul has a strained right hip flexor that seemed to slow him in the first game.

"You've just got to try and get as well as possible," Paul said. "That's what everybody is doing. I'm sure they're doing the same thing. I think one of our biggest things tomorrow is to come out and play hard like we did. We played hard last night. We just didn't play effective."

Caron Butler, despite a fractured right hand, played hard, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the third quarter.

Mo Williams has a sore right hand and fell and bumped his head during the game. His game wasn't up to par, either, as he scored just three points on one-for-three shooting.

The Clippers then added another issue, when they found out Nick Young was scheduled to get a root canal later Wednesday afternoon.

"My tooth has been bothering me for a while," said Young, who kept holding his jaw at practice. "I was taking painkillers, but now I need to go see the doctor."

Not only did Paul not score in the second half, but he also missed all seven of his shots, all four in the fourth quarter.

For the game, he missed 10 of his 13 shots.

He did have 10 assists and five steals, but he also had five turnovers, which is uncharacteristic for the All-Star point guard who so values protecting the basketball.

"I didn't play effective," Paul said. "I've got to come out and play a better game. I was just missing. I came in today and got a nice workout in. Hopefully it'll work for me tomorrow."

The Clippers also have to hope their three-point defense works better Thursday night.

The Spurs made 52% (13 of 25) of their three-pointers; the 13 ties their franchise playoff record for three-point field goals made.

"It's never easy," Paul said about finding San Antonio's three-point shooters. "It just means we've all got to put forth a little better effort. We need to start in a little tighter and then work our way out."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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