If you look only at the stats, Blake Griffin was having a quiet, maybe even disappointing season thus far. Averaging “only” 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, Griffin improved, or worked on improving others things. In a tough away game, against a team that hasn’t lost at home this season, the star of the Los Angeles Clippers finally had a his big moment of 2012-2013.
It took a big DeAndre Jordan block, some Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford clutch plays and for Randy Foye to come up short on time and distance in his attempt to win the game at the buzzer. Blake Griffin scored only 4 points of his 30, his first 30 point game of the season, in the fourth quarter. But he’s been slowly adding pieces to a more complete puzzle this season, and his performance against the Jazz in the 105-104 win is the result of all that hard work.
The Clippers continue their ongoing affair with the up & down effort this season, and it clearly showed during the first half and some of the third quarter, at some point going down by 14 points. Their defense is improved compared to last season, with Jordan becoming more than just a guy who jumps around trying to block shots with the same going to Griffin. The two give the Clippers so fierce interior presence, but there are just too many stretches during games in which the Clippers don’t raise their game to the necessary level. They woke up in time on Monday.
In the first half, it was almost a waste of time because no one showed up. Our defense was weak, we were soft and we had no toughness. But I was very pleased with the way we responded and made plays down the stretch.
The play was DeAndre Jordan and his block on Al Jefferson with 26 seconds remaining and the Clippers leading 101-99, denying the equalizer. I think just being physical with Al, making his catches difficult, pushing him out on the block, just kind of denying the post pass a little bit. Our guards did a great job of pressuring the passer, which made it a difficult pass to get in.
In somewhat of a reunion between ex-Clippers guards (Mo Williams and Randy Foye) and their team, Chris Paul came out with the upper hand. He finished with 14 points and 9 assists, but his defense certainly took a turn for the better in the fourth quarter and so did his effort on offense. Blake Griffin might be able to carry this team, but only to a certain point. He’s improving, but the two people who can create shots for themselves and for others are Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford, although Crawford is a shoot first, second and third kind of guy, which is sometimes what you need off the bench. He finished with 20 points and is averaging 17.6 this season.
The Clippers have a tendency to struggle in games that don’t go in the pace (fast) they like, but they managed to stay in touch with the front heavy Jazz because they made the right adjustments, mostly in their heads. When they start putting real pressure on Williams and Foye, the Jazz suddenly found it very hard to get their offensive game going. It’s that kind of effort the Clippers need to put up each night, or at least for most of it. When you look back at some of their losses this season, especially at home to the Hornets, Warriors and Cavs, they should be better than 11-6.