GRIFFIN PUTS UP CAREER NIGHT IN GAME 2
LOS ANGELES – Two columns stood out more than any others on Blake Griffin’s best postseason final box score Monday night: points (35) and fouls (zero).
Two days after being hampered by fouls that reduced his Game 1 effort to 19 minutes, Griffin played a vengeful second game. He was poised and confident. He was the most dominant player on the floor and put together one of the most efficient performances in the NBA’s shot-clock era.
He scored 35 points on 13-for-17 shooting in a meager 29:32 in Game 2’s blowout of the Warriors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Griffin’s just the fourth player since the advent of the shot clock to score 35 points or more in fewer than 30 minutes.
“You saw [Monday] how dominant he is,” said Chris Paul, who had a dozen points, 10 assists and five steals in Game 2. “Last game he had 16 points in 19 minutes and I think when we play that way we play with that force and thrust it’s tough to defend us.”
“[Griffin] was terrific,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers added.
It was the best game of the 25-year-old Griffin’s 19-game postseason career. He had 30 once before, in May 2012 against Memphis. But this was different. This was the kind of performance that made Griffin an MVP candidate throughout the regular season, when he dropped at least 30 points 16 times, something he’d done just 21 times in his previous three seasons combined.
The force and thrust that Paul mentioned started with Griffin. Rivers said the message to his young superstar has been simple “no matter who is guarding you just go play.”
“Whether you believe it or not, every NBA player deals with confidence issues at times,” Griffin said. “Before every game to hear C.P., Jamal [Crawford], D.J. (DeAndre Jordan), Matt [Barnes], D.C. (Darren Collison) on down the line and our whole coaching staff say, ‘Go attack, go score, go do what you do’ is a confidence builder. It gets me into the game. Even when I’m missing shots, they still say that.”
He did not miss much Monday. The Warriors used David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes and Hilton Armstrong. None of them had much success slowing him. Griffin had 14 points in the first quarter, tying a franchise record for points in a quarter in the postseason. He tied the record in the third quarter when he scored 14 again.
He had spinning layups, dunks in pick-and-rolls with Paul, face-up jump shots and baseline bank shots. He beat his defender up the floor. He got early post position, which the Clippers took advantage of to get the Warriors in heaps of foul trouble. He missed just four times from the floor and went 9-for-10 from the free throw line.
“He’s our firepower,” Darren Collison said. “He changes a lot. He’s tough to guard in transition. He’s doing a lot of good things in the post. He’s making the right plays passing out of the post.”
Unlike Game 1 when he was saddled with two fouls in the first three minutes and seemingly picked up additional ones at the most inopportune times, Griffin did not draw a whistle in Game 2. The ability to be aggressive, showing on pick-and-rolls and scrambling back to Lee or Green helped spearhead the Clippers’ revitalized defensive effort. They held Golden State to 41 points in the first half, and earned a 26-point lead that would eventually balloon to 40.
Before the series began, Warriors head coach said dealing with Griffin has become a “handful” because of the way he has expanded his all-around game. Griffin’s plus-minus rating is plus-15.5 in Games 1 and 2 combined. In two games only the fouls column in the box score has been able to contain him.