LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin is healthy just in time for the playoffs. The question now: How rusty is his game?
"I don't know the answer. We'll see," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Saturday on the eve of his team's first-round series with the Portland Trail Blazers. "Blake's had not only five games, but some practices time as well. It's not the exact way you would have wanted it. But we got him back, and that's better than not getting him back."
Griffin missed 45 games because of a partially torn right quad, and a fractured right hand from a fight with an assistant equipment manager. The Clippers won the first nine that he missed and were 30-15 overall during his absence, which included a four-game suspension from the team for the fight in Toronto.
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"When you look at the stretch where Blake was out, it was like everyone had their days. That's how we had to play this year, and it was good for us in the long run," Rivers said. "It forced us to play small for 48 minutes a night, which I didn't think I would ever do, but it allowed is to get into a great rhythm."
The Clippers had the fourth-best record in the Western Conference and will host the first two games of this series. That should help Rivers gauge whether his club has the goods to get past the second round for the first time in the franchise's 47-year history (see full preview).
Spurs ready to prove themselves vs. Grizzlies
Overshadowed by Golden State's historic run, the San Antonio Spurs put together their own season for the ages, too. Now that the postseason finally has arrived, they have no intention of easing up.
"We didn't play the way we did this season just to be on vacation after a few games," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "It's exciting. The pressure, the responsibility, the fact that we have another shot at making something big happen. We are very excited about that."
The Spurs tied for the seventh-best record in NBA history at 67-15 only to earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference behind Golden State. Before their anticipated faceoff with the Warriors seeking their third berth in the NBA Finals in four seasons, the Spurs must start with their first-round series Sunday night against seventh-seeded Memphis.
Battered by injuries, the Grizzlies held the No. 5 spot until losing nine of their final 10. They still have veterans Zach Randolph and Tony Allen making their sixth straight playoff appearance with Memphis with help from Vince Carter and Matt Barnes. Carter said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has created a system that all the Spurs buy into no matter who's on the floor (see full preview).
Equally matched Heat, Hornets set to tip-off
MIAMI -- Finding separation between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets is a highly difficult task right now.
They finished with the same 48-34 record. They split their four matchups, each team winning once on the other's home floor. They both ranked among the top five NBA teams in winning percentage since the All-Star break. They even held opponents to identical shooting numbers, 44 percent from the floor and 35 percent from 3-point range.
Over the next couple weeks, separation will finally happen.
The third-seeded Heat and sixth-seeded Hornets are set to meet in an Eastern Conference first round series, Game 1 to be played in Miami on Sunday. It's the first postseason matchup between Miami and Charlotte since the Heat got an opening-round sweep in 2014, though both teams have changed mightily since (see full preview).