The Los Angeles Clippers want to be about more then just their Lob City image, but it’s hard to ignore how impressive they look when Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are in full effect, soaring high above the competition, leading to a 118-105 win over the Toronto Raptors.
For the second straight season, a Chris Paul injury forces the best out of Blake Griffin and other players on the team, with Griffin showing just how much he’s evolved in pretty much every aspect. He scored 36 points to go with 8 rebounds in the win against the visiting Toronto, making it three consecutive games for him with 35 points or more; the first time that’s happened for a Clippers player since 1979. He needed only 28 minutes to make it happen this time.
Griffin wasn’t alone in the show, scoring 19 points in the first quarter as the Clippers ran away with the game in the first half only to have the Raptors come back at them with a strong third quarter. In a game that had too many foul calls and free throws (94!!!), the Clippers handled it well, as Jamal Crawford scored 21 points including 12-of-12 from the line, while DeAndre Jordan accounted for most of the team’s misses, hitting 1o-of-22 on his trips to the free throw spot. Griffin was 10-of-13.
I expected greatness, but Blake’s done some things we didn’t know he could do. Clearly, we’re taking advantage of him in the open court with the ball. And he’ll be even better when Chris comes back. But it’s been a total team effort, and that’s a credit to the coaching staff. They always keep us prepared. You saw how things went for Doc in the past with Boston when he lost Rondo and had K.G. in and out of the lineup. But he never made excuses, and he wasn’t going to allow himself to make excuses this time no matter who was out.
Despite losing by double digits, the Raptors were a part of the dunk show, with non-other than Terrence Ross, who’ll be defending his Dunk Contest title this All-Stat weekend, pulled off one of the most impressive dunks we’ve seen this season in the first half. DeMar DeRozan, the first All-Star out of USC since 1983, scored 36 points, but an awful shooting night for Kyle Lowry (6-of-18) allowed the Clippers too many open court looks and easy points, scoring 28 points on the fast break.
The Raptors tried slowing down things by their hacking tactics, but aside from Jordan (who did a bit better than expected), no one on the Clippers really had a problem handling the pressure of finishing the game from the line.
The Clippers are going to get Chris Paul back this week. Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford (also in the lineup because of the Redick injury) have done well in his absnece, with the Clippers going 12-6 since he dislocated his shoulder.
However, considering how Griffin has flourished in Paul’s absence, it might be wise for the Clippers to make it less about Paul managing and dominating everything once he comes back and make it more of a co-op effort, as it might make the Clippers a bit more difficult to handle down the road.