Last time Blake Griffin was the centerpiece of the show for the Los Angeles Clippers, they were a team on the rise, but not good enough to be taken too seriously. Now, waiting for Chris Paul to come back from his injury, it’s a little bit different, and with a better team around him, it’s enough to keep the ship steady.
After four consecutive losses, it was time to put an end to a losing streak that went on longer than it should have been. Maybe Chris Paul’s situation is a bit more serious than a bruised knee, but maybe they’re just being extra careful. You don’t need to dive too deep into basketball attributes and schematics to know the Clippers lose a lot when they have Eric Bledsoe on the floor instead of Chris Paul, also giving the second unit, maybe the more important of the two for the Clippers, a no-point guard look, but there’s enough talent on this team to hang on for the meanwhile.
It also means more focus on Blake Griffin, who isn’t the same player he was in the previous two years for the Clippers. Better on defense, a better jumper, less selfish when he gets the ball in the post. Not as predictable, but still as explosive when he has to. Griffin is enjoying his best month of the season in January (19.5 points per game) and has scored 23.5 over the last couple of games, making at least 52.6% of his shots each game over the last five.
He was one of only three Clippers players in double figures in the win against the Portland Trail Blazers, but against a side that is completely reliant on the ability of three players (Aldridge, Batum, Lillard), keeping the three of them on a combined 45 points means even not the prettiest of efforts from the Clippers is going to be enough.
It’s everybody’s job on this team to step up, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. Chris is a huge part of our team and he directs the game from the point guard spot. He has the ball in his hands during 85 percent of our offense. So when he goes out, our whole dynamic changes. But other guys have stepped up. Eric Bledsoe’s done a great job.
Bledsoe finished with 10 points and has scored in double figures on all of his four starts, but one of the problems is him not being able to create chances for others, averaging only 4.3 assists on those starts, often trying to finish plays on his own, not commanding the double teams and defensive changes Chris Paul does. Bledsoe can try and try, but he’s not Jamal Crawford, the better and more dangerous half of their bench-backcourt tandem.
Our lead assist guy is not around, so we have to run some more things through Blake at the elbow and let him make plays for us. He draws so much attention, but he’s unselfish and he’s making the good basketball plays and making other players better. That’s what All-Stars do in this league.
Griffin finished the game with 9 assists, averaging 9.5 over the last couple of games and 4.9 during January. The Clippers have their defense to carry them through the rough patches until Paul returns, but now they also have a new version of the point forward in someone mostly known for his ability to finish alley oop plays.