The first (and maybe only thing) people will remember from the Los Angeles Clippers beating the Boston Celtics 111-105 is Blake Griffin soaring above Kris Humphries for the humiliating dunk. It’s a shame they won’t be looking a bit deeper for more.
The fact is that Griffin, without Chris Paul, is the focal point of the Clippers’ offense. Not just for finishing and scoring as most would expect, but in his fourth year in the NBA, Griffin is actually learning and improving a lot in every other aspect, especially when it comes to finding shots for others and making the right decisions on defense.
He led the Clippers with 29 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. He’s not exactly Tim Duncan or Sabonis at the moment, but Griffin is doing very well in the high post or the low post as a pivot, especially against the terrible frontline the Celtics have. The Celtics did turn the ball over 18 times which made it very easy for the Clippers to boost their assist numbers (26 in the game), but it also has to do with some smart playmaking from Griffin, but also Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison.
The Clippers do need to rely more on team basketball now that Paul is out. Jamal Crawford is another player who can create shots for himself, which does give the Clippers the option and “comfort” of falling back on his crossovers and dribbling skills when they get lazy and stop playing like a team, but that doesn’t work when Crawford is shooting like he did against the C’s, finishing with 26 points, but on only 8-of-26 from the field and 3-of-12 from beyond the arc.
The Clippers are 2-1 since Paul was injured in the win over the Mavericks. Things looked really bad against the San Antonio Spurs (losing by 24 points), and decent enough in the wins over the Magic and Celtics, two of the worst teams in the league. It might serve as an indication that despite the good game Griffin had along with Jared Dudley (18 points) and Darren Collison (15 points, 6 assists), it’s going to take a bit more if they’re going to play well on the road and against good teams while Paul is out injured.
It takes getting used to; playing without your best player, and the one the entire offense is built around. But it’s always surprising to see teams completely helpless when that player does go down. The Clippers struggled last season when Paul was injured after their long winning streak, and it won’t be surprising to see them looking slightly confused when tougher opposition comes along.
In order to avoid that, it’s going to be mostly on Griffin. Not just to put up big numbers, but to carry the weight of the decision making on offense, and stepping a little bit outside his comfort zone, because putting the ball in the hands of Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison for most of the game isn’t the most trustworthy thing to do. After a long time, it seems that Griffin is pretty much ready to take on the responsibility.