Back to the halcyon days of late January when the Clippers were among the league’s top scoring teams and arguably its most entertaining. Saturday afternoon’s 101-85 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t cure the ills of their recent struggles, but it was certainly a start.
“It’s always fun when you win, especially in that manner,” Griffin said. “There are obviously things we still have to keep working on and keep improving, but it was a lot better game.”
Griffin, who looked energized from the tip, was back to jumping over people, back to pointing skyward as he raced down the court. But perhaps more importantly, Griffin had the kind of all-around impact on the game that the Clippers have sorely needed during their recent stretch of six losses in nine games.
“[Griffin] has a lot of fight in him,” Clippers guard Randy Foye said. “He understood that this was important. I mean, he understands that every game is important, but we needed this one. We were desperate for a win today.”
Griffin out-gritted Memphis forward Zach Randolph, who recently returned from a right knee injury, setting the tone defensively on the first Grizzlies possession as he contested Randolph’s baseline fade away. At times, the matchup looked more like wrestling than basketball, and Griffin obliged fighting for position in the post and below the rim.
“He had a tough assignment with Zach,” Foye said. “Zach’s a big time ‘duck in’ guy, so you go help and you go back and he’ll duck in and shoot the left-handed floater, which is hard to stop.”
Said Randolph, “Blake's energy level was great. He's a great young player, steadily getting better, steadily improving.”
Early, Griffin was as much playmaker as he was scorer. During the Clippers’ 33-point first quarter he drove right, faked a pass to the perimeter, and dropped the ball inside to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk on the baseline. He finished with five assists on the day.
“I tried to do a lot of the little things,” Griffin said. “I think that’s kind of the approach that everybody took. Everybody was more focused on doing the little things and it started on the defensive end, getting deflections, coming over on rotations, help defense, all that.”
Of course, all of the little things with Griffin, like diving over a cameraman courtside in the second half, hustling back to halt Tony Allen on a fast break layup attempt, or inhaling a rebound between three Grizzlies, are often overshadowed by the thunderous highlights.
And Griffin delivered in that respect as well.
He dived to the rim on pick and roll, received bounce pass from Paul and threw down a left-handed dunk around two defenders in the first half. With 2:38 left in the third, Griffin caught an alley oop from Chris Paul along the baseline where he jumped from behind the backboard, caught the ball above Dante Cunningham and dunked it at the corner of the rim with his left hand. About four minutes later, Griffin had his way with Cunningham again, spinning off the undersized Memphis defender in the post and slamming home a reverse dunk.
After the reverse slam, Griffin hopped back up the court with his mouthpiece agape, a stern look on his face. Somewhere, though, he was having fun again.