The Los Angeles Clippers are showing signs of evolving and maturing this season, doing very well without Chris Paul to lead them, as another great performance from Blake Griffin against the usually very efficient defense of the Chicago Bulls, leading his team to a 112-95 win.
Griffin finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists, putting up another performance to prove this is a changed player. No longer someone who thrives only in fast breaks when the ball is thrown high in the air for him to catch and dunk. Griffin isn’t exactly Tim Duncan or Chris Bosh, but he’s learning to operate in places that aren’t just in the paint, easily finding shooters as the Clippers hit 13 three-pointers at 61.9% accuracy.
I want to be a leader for us, knocking down shots and being able to mix up my game, going inside when I felt the need to and going outside when I needed to. This is kind of what we talked about, especially defensively. But we still didn’t do a good job in the first quarter. We were just so hot early. We got that lead and kept it. Especially on the road, you never want to come out sluggish.
The Clippers duo of J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes shot 6-of-6 on catch-and-shoot jumpers Friday, all three-pointers. As a team, the Clippers shot 12-of-21 (57.1%) on catch-and-shoot jump shots, scoring 33 points. Collison was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and Jamal Crawford made 3-of-5 when shooting 3-pointers as well.
The Chicago Bulls have been doing well since trading Luol Deng, winning 7 of 9 games heading into their contest with the Clippers. However, a famously good, sometimes even great defense, couldn’t cope with the ball movement and the shooting. The Clippers scored 41 points in the first quarter, and the Bulls aren’t a team that have the ability to catch up with teams that open big leads against them. When their defense goes soft or tentative, there’s really no way for them to compete with teams that are a lot more talented than them.
I don’t think any aspect of our defense was any good. Giving up 3s, we strive for five or less. That was just crazy. We kept fighting. But once they give a team like that confidence, it’s hard to shut them off. I think we were passive. I don’t like the word `soft,’ but I think we were a little bit of that too. They got the shots they wanted to get. We didn’t make it too tough for them at all.
Any team playing without their starting point guard is going to suffer, especially when that player is someone like Chris Paul, who just might be the best in the NBA. But while last season the Clippers looked lost and hopeless without Paul, they’re now 8-3 since he went down. It goes to show of the leader and player Griffin has turned into this season, but also goes to show that the players the Clippers have been adding over the last two seasons do make a difference, and that adequate depth filled with quality can fill the place of even the best players in the league.