You could forgive the Clippers if, after learning that Steph Curry would be out for two weeks with a strained MCL, they began to look ahead to a second round matchup against the Golden State Warriors. Before Monday’s Game 4, they were up 2-1 over the Portland Trail Blazers, they had home court advantage, and they had Chris Paul and Blake Griffin (and, what the hell, DeAndre Jordan).
After Game 4, they might be down to just Jordan. Paul broke his hand in a 98-84 blowout loss and will miss the rest of the playoffs. Griffin re-aggravated a nagging quadriceps injury and is “50-50” for Game 5. And the Blazers, led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, are playing out of their heads, and getting a ton of help from a supporting cast of misfit toys like Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee. The Clippers needed Paul, who was carrying the team on his tiny (by NBA standards) back to win both games at home. with Griffin ailing and still recovering from breaking his hand punching out an equipment manager, it’s unclear where the Clips are going to get the offense they need to make it to the next round.
Before Paul went down, the Warriors round two matchup was a question mark—they’re back to being heavy favorites now. Even without Curry, the Warriors are a better team than the Clippers; without Paul, the Warriors are substantially better. But hopefully this Blazers team, which is fun as hell, makes it through. Aside from Russell Westbrook, Lillard has been more energetic and batshit crazy than anyone in these playoffs, and the Blazers are more fun to watch than any team other than Golden State. They’ll go down in the second round, but it’ll be fun to watch.