With the Clippers just one win away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals for just the second time in team history and first time since 2006, their two biggest stars suffered injuries in a Game 5 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles leader and floor general Chris Paul strained his right hip flexor, while the Clippers' human highlight reel, Blake Griffin, sprained his left knee.
These injuries may not keep the two All-Stars off the floor, but they definitely will make closing out this series more difficult, and a second-round matchup with the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs will be nearly impossible to win without the Clippers' stars at full strength.
It seemed the Clippers had finally been cured of the curse that has plagued this franchise for its entire existence. After years of bad decisions, awful basketball and unlucky circumstances, the Clippers had some favorable outcomes that have built the foundation of this year's team.
After Griffin -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft -- missed the entire 2009-10 season with a knee injury, he recovered and won rookie of the year the following season. He was even the main attraction during the 2011 All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, winning the slam dunk contest.
Then this offseason, the Clippers were able to acquire Paul after a fortuitous decision by the league at the expense of the Clippers' legendary Staples Center cotenant. Commissioner David Stern nullified a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers, allowing the Clippers to put together a deal the league would support to land their franchise point guard.
With Griffin and Paul, the Clippers finished with a franchise-best .606 winning percentage this season.
But maybe it was all too good to be true.
Maybe Griffin's knee will be a reoccurring problem for the rest of his career.
Maybe Paul, who has won only one playoff series in his seven-year career, isn't the kind of leader who can take a team deep into the postseason.
The Clippers are just two losses away from having that doubt -- which has been strengthened from decades of futility -- cloud what appeared as such a promising future.
- Jeffrey Tomik