It’s been a season of growing up for Blake Griffin, and prioritizing. After being mostly known for alley oops and amazing dunks during the first two years in the NBA, he’s now a more complete player – better passer, more low post moves, improved defense. Still, the Los Angeles Clippers do get to enjoy the high-flying side of his game from time to time.
Griffin finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists as the Clippers, as expected, simply ran over the Charlotte Bobcats in a 106-84 win, improving to 41-18, putting them 4.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs as they still think about claiming the top of the Western Conference.
We have to let our defense dictate our offense. Our defense is so amazing. We got two dynamic bigs in D.J. and Griffin who can block shots. When we get stops we’re tough in transition because we’ve got high fliers.
The star of this team, and the player that will decide just how far they’ll reach this season, is Chris Paul. No argument about that. He sets the tone and dictates the pace of the game on both ends of the floor, but when it comes to exciting plays that tear the roof of the Staples Center, yes, in Clippers game, it comes to Blake Griffin to deliver the performance. Sometimes it’s DeAndre Jordan, going through the motions recently as his relationship with head coach Vinny Del Negro hasn’t been at its best, but it’s mostly Griffin.
DeAndre and Blake are two of the best athletes you’ve got in the league. If you don’t put a body on them and be physical with them, they’re going to play over the top of the rim.
The return of Chris Paul has “hurt” Griffin’s dominance a bit, but the Clippers prefer Griffin having fewer 20-10 games and more wins. They finished January with a very disappointing 9-7 record as Griffin averaged 19.9 points per game. His numbers slid down to 18.8 per game in February, as the Clippers have won six of their last seven games. Griffin did miss two games this month, but over the last six has scored 20 points or more four times.
The key, eventually, to the Clippers final position this season, and I don’t mean their ranking in the west but how far they manage to get in the postseason, isn’t about the assist numbers of Chris Paul and the number of dunks Blake Griffin pulls off. It’ll be about this team, one of the deepest in the league, staying together, and remaining focused on defense.
Their great winning streak during December came from great defense first and foremost. Causing turnovers and putting the squeeze on offenses at the right time. It begins with the energy Chris Paul brings on the perimeter but has to be backed up by the discipline, focus and effort Griffin and Jordan add in the paint.
The Clippers still see themselves as legitimate contenders to the NBA title, with Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and others on the bench. The bench leading the way thing works sometimes in the regular season, but they’ll be a supporting cast in the postseason, without a doubt. It’ll be up to Chris Paul to orchestrate the whole thing, hopefully getting more than highlight dunks and blocks from Griffin and Jordan consistently.