|Paul and Griffin could both be back Friday. (Getty Images)|
The Clippers have been sputtering as of late, losing seven of their last 10.
But they have a good excuse: They haven't had Chris Paul.
Their All-Star point guard has been out since Jan. 22 because of a knee bruise that he suffered a few games before that. Without Paul, the Clippers have gone just 3-6, though they did pick up a win on Wednesday ar Orlando to break a three-game skid.
It hasn't just been Paul, either. Blake Griffin missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, and the Clips have been without Chauncey Billups for a while as well. Jamal Crawford sat out because of an injured shoulder.
But with the Heat waiting for them on Friday, the Clippers might be getting back to full strength. Both Paul and Billups hope to return Friday against the Heat. And with Crawford just being day-to-day with the shoulder injury, he's likely as well.
Billups, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles that he suffered last season, plans to practice Thursday and see how things go before making a determination.
"It will give me a better gauge on if I'm where I think I am," Billups told ESPNLA.com. "I feel good right now, but I haven't really gone full court. I'll get a more honest gauge of where I am [Thursday.]"
Griffin said he hopes to play but is waiting to see how he responds.
"Hopefully it's Friday, but we'll see," Griffin said.
The Western Conference playoff race is tightening at the top with the Spurs and Thunder playing consistent ball. The Clippers have slipped to third and are now 4 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the top spot. If they have visions of that No. 1 seed, they're going to need to get everyone back, and back soon.