EVEN AS THE OPPOSITION, GRIFFIN’S HOME STATE REMAINS SUPPORTIVE
OKLAHOMA CITY – Strawberry cake. That’s what Blake Griffin asked his mother, Gail, to bake for his teammates during his four-day homecoming.
Griffin, who grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, 14 miles from Chesapeake Energy Arena, was back in his home state for the ninth time since starring as a collegian for two seasons from 2007-09.
“It’s always great to come back home and this home,” Griffin said. “And that will never change no matter how many playoff series’ we play against the Thunder.”
There had been something special about playing there over the years. As Griffin became more settled in the league, returning home was still about family and his mom’s cooking. But the trips to Oklahoma during the season were increasingly more business-like.
This time business means swiping home-court advantage from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals. It’s not uncharted territory for Griffin and the Clippers, who entering Wednesday’s Game 2 have been in 25 postseason games since Griffin’s second season. Doing it in the marquee series of the second round in his hometown, though, is something new, especially after being roundly booed in Oakland during the first round and receiving a significant number of cheers during pregame introductions in Oklahoma City.
“This state is very supportive,” Griffin said when asked how the crowd response felt as well as the massive turnout for Kevin Durant’s MVP speech a day before the Clippers’ 112-101 loss to the Thunder Wednesday. “They have great fans, a great fan base.”
And they’ve remained supportive of Griffin, who had more than a dozen friends and family members in attendance for Games 1 and 2.
This season Griffin put together the best all-around performance of his four-year career, ranking sixth in the NBA in scoring and leading the NBA in fouls drawn, points in the paint and finishing third in the league’s Most Valuable Player voting.
In the Clippers’ first round series victory over the Warriors, Griffin emerged at the forefront. He was the cake mix, and frosting, for the Clippers. He scored 67 points in Games 2 and 3 combined. He had five or more assists in two of the final three games. He capped off a classic Game 7 with three of the team’s final six field goals, his last a reverse layup with his back to the rim that he finished through contact, tumbled to the floor and popped back on his feet after summersaulting backwards. Two games into his first series in his home state, Griffin has averaged 19 points and 3.5 assists.
And as the Clippers prepared to fly back to Los Angeles, the stormy Oklahoma night behind them, Griffin boarded the plane with a last piece of home: the strawberry cake for his teammates.
It was something he planned to do all along.
“I wanted to wait,” Griffin said. “I don’t want anyone to have a sugar overload before Game 2. It will be on the plane for everybody going back home. So, we’ve got that to look forward to.”
They are also looking forward to returning home with a chance to take control of the series.