PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers are in uncharted territory and mapping their way through it probably can’t get started until tip-off Wednesday.
But they at least know what they won’t have to guard against: Clippers superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will both be out for the duration of the postseason.
Paul underwent surgery Tuesday on his broken hand and will be re-evaluated in four-to-six weeks, which is likely long after the Clippers postseason run will be over.
Griffin has been ruled out for the postseason due to the same left quad injury that kept him out for most of the regular season.
With the series tied, the long-shooting long shots from Portland now find themselves in position to advance to the conference semifinals heading into Game 5 of their best-of-seven series against the Clippers at Staples Center Wednesday.
The absence of Paul and Griffin have made the Blazers the favorites (-1) for Game 5 according to the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas.
Through the first four games of the series, the Clippers were +13.2 points per 100 possessions with Paul on the floor.
In the 67 minutes that Paul has sat on the bench, the Clippers have been outscored by an average of 10.4 points per 100 possessions.
The Blazers definitely have the talent advantage. What they don’t have is any idea about the team that they will be see on Wednesday.
“They played a couple of games recently against Oklahoma City and Utah when they rested a lot of players, I don’t know if that’s a good barometer of what they do,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of trying to prepare for the Clippers without Paul. “Whether it was in our series or in other games to get a little bit better gauge of how they play without him in the game.”
Stotts conceded that “there’s only so much video work you can do.” He said that he and his staff will try to anticipate what moves the Clippers will make.
“We can hypothesize but until they tip it up we won’t know,” Stotts said on the same day he finished second in the NBA Coach of the Year voting behind Golden State’s Steve Kerr.
Now without Griffin and Paul, the offensive attack for the Clippers will certainly be much different and much more reliant on JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and perhaps even DeAndre Jordan.
Lillard repeated a familiar refrain after Game 4, guarding against any notion the series is already won.
“Once again, who are we to be over-confident about anything?,” Lillard said. “We’ve had to scratch and claw and fight. Just to get to where we are now, we have to continue doing those things.”
The Blazers have prided themselves all year on nobody believing in them.
Now with almost everything on their side, the Blazers know that in a playoff series that has already seen sea changes from game-to-game, the stakes are too high for them to feel too good.
“I don’t know about complacency as much as it is respecting the players that they have,” Stotts said. “Knowing that it’s 2-2 and it’s a best of 3 series, I don’t think complacency or lack of respect will ever come into the equation. The most important thing is that we continue to realize why we won these two games with how hard we played and how well we defended.”