BY BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin has a sprained left knee and could miss up to eight weeks, dealing a stunning blow to the injury-riddled Los Angeles Clippers.
The team said Tuesday that an MRI revealed a medial collateral ligament sprain, but there is no other structural damage to the knee.
Griffin got injured late in Monday night’s 120-115 win over the Lakers. He had 26 points and 11 rebounds in the Clippers’ third straight victory.
He was going for a loose ball in the paint with teammate Austin Rivers and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. It appeared Rivers fell on Griffin, whose knee got twisted as he landed on his back. Griffin got up, but soon left the game.
“Lonzo knocked someone into Blake and it was a trigger effect,” coach Doc Rivers said.
It’s the latest setback for the Clippers, who are 8-11 and in second in the Pacific Division.
They are already missing guard Patrick Beverley, who is out for the season after right knee surgery last week. He was acquired after All-Star guard Chris Paul left for Houston. Forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Milos Teodosic are hurt, too.
“We were already having a pity party,” Rivers said before Monday’s game. “We were playing that hand to the fullest.”
The team didn’t practice Tuesday and hosts Utah on Thursday.
Griffin didn’t speak to reporters after Monday’s win and left the locker room looking grim.
He is averaging a team-high 23.6 points to go with 7.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists. Griffin is shooting a career-best 78.1 percent from the free throw line.
He had been acting as the team’s point guard at times, bringing the ball up court and distributing to unfamiliar teammates, including Montrezl Harrell and rookies Sindarius Thornwell and C.J. Williams.
“He’s got to trust guys he’s never seen before or never played with,” Rivers said.
The Clippers’ first three-game winning streak since they opened the season 4-0 has come with wins over last-place Atlanta and Sacramento and the 8-12 Lakers.
Without Griffin, they face an upcoming stretch that includes Southeast Division leader Washington and two games against Minnesota, second in the Northwest Division.
Rivers had been relying on Griffin and big man DeAndre Jordan to buoy the younger players. Now, Jordan will have to do it.
“We know it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Jordan said after Monday’s game. “If I’m negative what kind of example does that set?”
Griffin’s career has been interrupted by injuries, including last season when he was knocked out of the playoffs after undergoing surgery to repair an injury to his right big toe. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 61 regular-season games.
Griffin could have opted out of his contract last summer, but decided to stay with the Clippers only to watch Paul leave.
In January 2016, Griffin punched the team’s former equipment manager, breaking his right hand in the process. He was suspended four games and docked nearly $860,000 in pay.
Also during the 2015-16 season, he was limited to 35 games because of a left quadriceps injury. He averaged 21.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. The Clippers lost to Portland in the first round of the playoffs that year.
Before Griffin went down, Rivers called this season his most challenging as Clippers coach.
“I just know there’s another day,” he said, “and you got to coach your guys to believe that.”
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