Commentary

Dodging disaster new for Clippers

L.A. avoided two scary moments with their best players. Has the curse been lifted?

Updated: January 20, 2011, 4:36 AM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- It was, at most, 15 seconds.

But 15 seconds can feel like an eternity when the franchise is down on the court longer than he should be, wincing in pain.

What is the sound of 17,793 people holding their breath?

The sound inside Staples Center as the Los Angeles Clippers' rookie, Blake Griffin, checked out his vital signs after an awkward fall early in the second quarter of Wednesday's 126-111 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Eric Gordon was already in the locker room getting his finger X-rayed when Griffin fell into an awkward splits chasing after a loose ball, and for those interminable 15 seconds, all you could think was: The Clipper Curse has struck again.

[+] EnlargeBlake Griffin
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Love said he would trade Blake Griffin's stat line if his team had prevailed rather than the Clippers.

Just when the Clippers were finally getting it going, just when Blake Griffin's popularity seemed to be mushrooming exponentially with every game, it would all come crashing down.

"It was definitely one of those situations where you catch your breath," said Clippers guard Baron Davis, who has seen this happen too many times before.

Only it didn't happen this time.

Griffin got up, walked gingerly over to the bench, and waved away the training staff before taking a short breather.

"It just kind of scared me for a second," Griffin said. "But I'm fine. It's just a little cut on my knee."

He was fine.

Everything was fine.

Eric Gordon even seemed to be fine as he came back in to score 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the second half. Afterward, he said: "It's hurting pretty bad, I'm just going to try to fight through it."

Disaster averted. ... Clipper Curse undone?

It's starting to feel that way.

"I'm not even talking about that," Davis said, ending his interview session the second the specter of the Clipper Curse was raised.

This wasn't the first time Davis has refused to answer questions about the supposed curse, but this time felt different. In the past, he simply didn't want to. This time, he knew he shouldn't have to.

This team, this season, feels different.

In the 15 seconds Griffin was down on the court, everyone in the building understood why.

In the 15 seconds there was a chance that Griffin was actually, really hurt, you couldn't help but appreciate him that much more.

"He may be one of a kind," Clippers assistant coach Dean Demopoulous said. "They say he's like Amare [Stoudemire], but he's different that that. He's like, him, a runaway train. He's like, him. Blake Griffin."

It isn't just what he's done this season, but how he's done it. Veteran players have fallen all over themselves to praise him. Hardened guys, not given to hyperbole.

"I think players respect other players that play hard and are competitive," Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said before the game. "They always respect that and they respect a players' nastiness.

"A young player that doesn't back down from older players in a way that's not false bravado. He goes about it in a workmanlike fashion. You don't see him doing any of the other stuff some players do to draw attention to themselves. He just goes out and plays."

Griffin spent much of Wednesday's game lined up with another guy with that workmanlike approach.

He and Kevin Love actually have a long history together, both coming out of high school in 2007. At the time, Love was regarded as the more dominant player.

"I always tell people, I saw the fire in his eyes," Love said. "There was something about him. He wanted to be the best and I could always see that."

Both Love and Griffin have blossomed this season. Love extended his streak of double-doubles to 29 games with 26 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday. Griffin saw his streak snapped at 27 games, finishing with 29 points and eight rebounds.

"Now I can just start a new one. So it's whatever," Griffin said afterward.

Told that he seemed annoyed to come out of the game with 3:44 remaining, Griffin laughed.

"It was just more about the way I played in the second half," he said. "I thought I missed some shots and had some stupid turnovers. You don't want to finish out a game like that. I'd rather end on a high point, or at least take care of the ball a little better."

On a night when the Clippers world nearly stopped, it was a good problem to have.

Blake Griffin got up.

Eric Gordon came back.

And the Clipper Curse might soon be forgotten.

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.