Clips’ Six-Week Fate In Griffin’s Hands


VIDEO: Blake Griffin goes up and over Tim Duncan

DALLAS – If Blake Griffin isn’t the superstar everybody wants him to be, the hulking forward will just have to live with it. His concern is being the superstar the Clippers need him to be with All-Star partner Chris Paul on the shelf for six weeks and L.A.’s top-four position in the West standings very much in jeopardy.

Much the way Kevin Durant faces hostile traps without Russell Westbrook to deflect the attention of double-teams, Griffin knows he’ll, too, come under greater duress without the shield of CP3.

“He commands so much attention offensively that he opens up a lot of things for everybody else,” Griffin said of Paul, who has assisted on 137 of Griffin’s 299 baskets. “With him out it’s going to be different. Depending on the [opponent] it’s going to be different, too, so we have to do a good job of figuring that out quickly and adapting to that.”

That begins in earnest tonight back home at Staples Center against Orlando (10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass). Griffin put up 25 points, 15 rebounds and five assists Friday night at Dallas, and played huge down the stretch as the Clippers rallied late to beat the Mavs after Paul went down midway through the third quarter. The next night they got annihilated at San Antonio as the gravity of Paul’s separated right shoulder hit home.

The Clippers have a chance to regroup and maintain their position in the tightening West with a favorable schedule for the first three weeks of Paul’s expected six-week absence. Tonight’s game against the Magic kicks off a string of 12 games, 10 against the Eastern Conference, with eight of those against sub-.500 teams, plus Indiana and Toronto. The two West teams they face are the depleted Lakers and Dallas.

Just as Durant has the opportunity to buff up his MVP credentials while Westbrook sits, without Paul, Griffin can potentially enter that conversation and bolster his already worthy resume as the fans’ pick to be an All-Star starter: 22.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg and 3.1 apg. Despite a career average of 20.0 ppg and 9.2 rpg, the 6-foot-10, 251-pounder continues to get knocked for an incomplete offensive arsenal even though an evolutionary path is clear.

“Sometimes getting to the free throw-line, sometimes hitting jumpers, sometimes being in the post, sometimes doing it assist-wise,” Blake said. “Just trying to keep that sharp and not become methodical and do the same things over and over.”

Griffin has scored in double figures in all 36 games this season, including 20 points or more in 23 games and 30 or more in five games. He’s recorded 25 double-doubles, including eight in the last 10 games, a stretch in which he’s averaged 26.2 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, plus shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and 78.6 percent from the free-throw line.

“You know,” coach Doc Rivers said, “all he can do, and I’ve said it before, is just keep putting up numbers and let people keep talking about it. If they’re talking about you, you’re either not doing your job or your doing your job very well. I think he’s doing his job very well.”

Griffin is shooting 51.9 percent from the floor on the season and has made himself into a legitimate free-throw shooter at 70.5 percent (his previous career-high was 66.0 percent last season). He went 11-for-13 from the stripe at Dallas, including three consecutive free throws in crunch time. It’s a huge development for one of the league’s strongest post players who is getting 46 percent of his shot attempts from inside the restricted area and better than 63 percent from the paint (including the restricted area).

Hacking Griffin to prevent the bucket and make him earn it at the line is no longer much of an option.

“It doesn’t matter what time of the game it is, every time I go to the line I feel like I’m going to make them,” Griffin said. “That changes my game for sure because I don’t shy away from getting fouled. I’m looking for the foul, I’m looking for that contact, I’m looking to go up and score. It definitely changes a lot of things.”

Life without CP3 will change a lot of things. The Clippers will lean heavily on their superstar to keep them in the thick of the homecourt chase.

“Everybody’s got to step up,” Griffin said, “and I’ve got to be the first.”

18 Comments

  1. The truth says:

    Blake doesnt deserve MVP this year, and he wont get it. Paul George, deserves it more than anyone. More than Lebron and Kevin Durant. Lamarcus Aldridge deserves it too.

    • Game Time says:

      Wow people really don’t read or comprehend what they do. Where does it say anything about him deserving the MVP? It clearly says he could enter the conversation depending on how these games without Paul go. Also, PG? Are you kidding me? His ppg has dropped all the way to 18 since starting at 25. Just because he’s the best shooter on the top team in the east doesn’t make him the MVP. L.A. is a good candidate, but take away Lillard and Portland would be 5th-8th in ranking. Miami has played without their 2nd best for quite a few games and James has delivered in his absence, that’s why he’s at the top with Durant.

  2. rcast says:

    GO CLIPPERS

  3. jim says:

    Blake has already maxed out his numbers. Clips don’t need him to do more, they need everyone else to.

    That said CP3 is not replaceable; they’ll be lucky to play .500 ball w/o him.

  4. okc2014 says:

    As an OKC fan, I completely understand the pressure that Blake Griffin is in. Kevin Durant , like any player (including King Lebron James) cannot win games by himself. Blake Griffin can use this time to step it up, take the spot light, and shine as much as possible. But the other Clipper players need to step up too. This stinks.

  5. save87 says:

    Griffin is a nice showman, he is definitely an amazing dunker and his number are improving, but is he an MVP candidate?
    No way.

    • Game Time says:

      He never said Blake was a candidate. Griffin COULD become an MVP candidate depending on how many wins the Clippers get without Paul.

  6. Mark says:

    Saying Griffin is MVP-worthy is blasphemy.

  7. The Voice Of Reason says:

    Clippers need to get a 2nd backup point guard with Reggie Bullock still recovering too. Haters don’t see Griffin’s numbers, they just think he is a street baller highlight reel – does make him one of the more entertaining stars to watch though! I totally agree with Bill, he is a proven All-Star but now is his opportunity to join CP3 as a legitimate Super-Star and carry his team. The only thing is he can’t do it alone – J-Crossover needs to find his offensive rythym and Dudley needs to consistently be the player the Clippers traded for – a 3 point sniper and Collison with have to work out how to incorporate more distribution in his play style. DeAndre is doing a great job on defense but he needs Ryan Hollins to step up when he’s off the floor!
    Its true that they underestimate sub .500 teams but now is the perfect time to get over that mentality and build some momentum and confindence by properly flogging the lesser teams so when CP3 gets back they can really take it to the top teams.
    Season’s still got a long way to go, GO CLIPPERS!

  8. Ender(ger) says:

    Hedo and former Laker guard Darius Morris are on the radar + they waived Maalik Wayns.

  9. c man says:

    the clips have talent and now must prove it I think at times they leaned too much on paul Griffin Crawford and Dudley should ber able to cover until paul returns. plus mullins is a shooter go clips

  10. Bill says:

    My take on Blake is that he is an all-star, but not a super-star. Not the biggest knock ever, how many true super stars are there really (even though the term is definitely over used)? The deficit I see in his game he he is not the guy that can carry the scoring load when a game it tight in the 4th. He is certainly not a guy who you give the ball to and let him loose to operate and expect great results.

    For this reason, I don’t think he should be starting the all-star game as I don’t think he is the best big forward in the west. To me LaMarcus Aldridge is currently (and clearly) the best, Kevin Love is second, and Blake is in a third tier and comparable to guys like David Lee and Zack Randolph.

    CP3 on the other hand is a super star so expect all of the Clips, not just Blake, to struggle a lot while he is out.

    • Do you see the Clippers actually missing the playoffs? With 19 games ahead of them, all of them are losable.

      1. They struggle against the eastern conference.
      2. They are a bad road team.
      3. They still underestimate loser lottery teams.

      • Game Time says:

        Ok genius EVERY game is losable in the regular season. Keep dreaming about the Clippers missing playoffs because they may fall to 6th or 7th in seeding (worst case scenario), but they are still a playoff team without Paul.

    • Caldron Pool says:

      I disagree with you. Griffin and Aldridge’s numbers are almost identical – so by your own argument Griffin is “clearly the best” as well. The numbers don’t lie.

      • Game Time says:

        Exactly, but these Griffin bashers don’t look at everything. They just watch NBA highlights and judge him off that.