Russell Westbrook injury: Clippers guard suffers fractured hand, leaving void in bench unit for stretch run

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Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook suffered a fractured left hand during Friday night’s 140-115 win against the Washington Wizards, the team announced. Westbrook was ruled out for the remainder of Friday’s matchup, but no additional recovery timeline was provided. At the time of the injury, the nine-time All-Star had scored six points and dished out one assist in 10 minutes.

The injury appeared to take place early in the second quarter, as Westbrook attempted to poke the ball loose from Wizards guard Jordan Poole. Westbrook immediately grabbed his hand afterward, but remained in the game for two more minutes before being subbed out and heading to the locker room.

The NBA’s all-time leader in career triple-doubles, Westbrook has settled into a sixth man role with the Clippers after the acquisition of James Harden in late October. He’s averaged 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists off the bench this season in just over 21 minutes per game. More importantly, Westbrook has increased the pace and provided a dose of unpredictability for a Clippers team that has a habit of getting stagnant offensively.

While the health of Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is paramount to the Clippers’ title hopes, Westbrook is an important piece that the team will have trouble replacing if he misses extended time. The regular starting lineup has been phenomenal (plus-12.6 points per 100 possessions), but after trading away much of their depth in the Harden deal, the Clippers have few reliable ball-handlers outside of their “Big Three” if Westbrook is out of the equation.

Head coach Tyronn Lue will likely start by giving the majority of Westbrook’s minutes to third-year guard Bones Hyland, who has played sparingly this season. Hyland has the ability to get hot quickly, but lacks the experience and physicality that Westbrook has brought to the table for most of the season.

The Clippers entered Friday night’s game 3.5 games behind the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference, and are on many experts’ short list of teams that can truly contend for an NBA title. While Westbrook has been polarizing and inconsistent at times this season, the Clippers certainly hope that they’ll have one of their key rotation pieces back healthy by the time the playoffs roll around.

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