DALLAS — Los Angeles Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul suffered a separated shoulder Friday night and now two of the Western Conference’s top four teams must make due without their stellar quarterbacks potentially all the way to the mid-February All-Star break.
Paul joins Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook on the sideline. The two injuries could shake up what has been a consistent top-four power structure along with Portland and San Antonio for these first two months of the season. After winning two straight without Westbrook, who last week needed a third surgery in eight months on his right knee, the Thunder dropped their last two and were wobbly down the stretch of both games, twice losing double-digit leads to Portland and struggling Brooklyn.
The Clippers led by two points at Dallas when Paul went down attempting to drive around Mavs guard Monta Ellis with 6:43 left in the third quarter. Ellis fouled Paul, who had 19 points (5-for-6 on 3s) and six assists, and he immediately dropped to the floor in obvious pain. He stayed down for a few minutes as he was checked out by the medical staff. Upon getting up he angrily headed to the locker room for X-rays, which revealed the separation. He left the American Airlines Center with his right arm in a sling.
“He’s down. He’s out at least three to five weeks and maybe more,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before backtracking a bit. “We don’t know that, [yet]. We know it’s a separated shoulder. We don’t know what grade it is, yet. We’ll probably send him home, and he’ll get evaluated in L.A., and just hope that’s he’s going to be O.K.”
The Clippers (23-12) were OK for at least this night. Behind Blake Griffin‘s 25 points (11-13 on free throws), 15 rebounds and five assists, DeAndre Jordan‘s 25 points (11-for-14 from the floor) and 18 rebounds and reserve guard Darren Collison, who in his revenge game against Dallas scored 20 points with four assists, L.A. managed to flip a 110-103 deficit with four minutes to go into a 119-112 victory.
It was a big one. L.A., in fourth place in the West and just one game ahead of both Houston and Golden State — and just three in front of eighth-place Dallas — plays at San Antonio on Saturday night. The Spurs are coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Knicks on Thursday night and will be ready to pounce.
By tip-off, Paul will have been back in Los Angeles and re-evaluated. That’s when an actual timetable will come into clearer focus.
Moving forward, the backcourt will belong to Collison and Jamal Crawford. Collison played the entire 18:43 after Paul left with six points and just two turnovers. Crawford, the Clippers’ trusty sixth man who recently assumed the starting role at shooting guard in place of the injured J.J. Redick, played all but 33 seconds of the third quarter and scored six points with no turnovers in the fourth.
“We leaned on each other,” Crawford said. “Obviously, Chris is one of the best players in the world. It’s always disheartening to see him in pain because he cares about the game so much. That’s even more of a reason to rally around each other, use each other, lean on each other and we poured it out tonight.”
Collison will take over the starting duties at point guard with the crafty Crawford having to fill in as well, but there’s little depth from there and that was a clear concern for Rivers immediately after the game with little time to begin preparations for life without CP3.
“I haven’t given it enough time to think so I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Rivers said. “We may go small more, we may go bigger more. I just don’t know what we’re going to do yet.”
Or where the Clippers will be whenever Paul returns.
“Injuries are inevitable,” Griffin said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself, it’s happening to everybody. You look around the league, there’s key guys hurt everywhere. So we’ve just got to find a way to get through it.”