GRIFFIN’S AGGRESSIVENESS COULD BODE WELL MOVING FORWARD
LOS ANGELES – Thunder head coach Scott Brooks likely wasn’t cheering much in Game 3, silently or not.
After being pressed to answer whether or not he would be privately happy if Blake Griffin settled for jumpers as opposed to attacking the rim, Brooks finally relented.
“If I had to pick a dunk or a shot, I’d give him the shot,” Brooks said. “And I will cheer loudly, inside, if he doesn’t dunk on us and shoots jump shots.”
Griffin did not settle on Friday, though. He did not seem tentative as he had in various stages of Game 2. He faced up, put his head down and drove to the basket and bloodied himself. He put pressure on Oklahoma’s interior defenders, drawing a pair of fouls on Oklahoma City’s shot-blocking menace Serge Ibaka less than four minutes into the first quarter and kept the Thunder’s big man in foul trouble most of the night.
An Ibaka rejection later, hardly curtailed Griffin’s relentlessness. He was seemingly a quick study. After being told in the locker room Wednesday that even if he goes “0-for-30” he needs to keep shooting, keep looking to score, Griffin put himself in position to be a scoring threat all night.
He finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks and was 13-for-22 from the field. It was a LeBron James-esqe game; James being the last player in 2010 to post such gaudy all-around numbers in a playoff game.
“Blake was efficient,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We got him in the right spots [Friday]. I thought whenever he faced and attacked it was very difficult to guard him.”
It was Griffin’s best game of the series, and a reminiscent of Games 2 and 3 in the Clippers’ series against the Warriors. It was not just that he scored 30 points or more as he did in those previous two, but the way he did it.
“Just being aggressive early, facing up, trying to be the aggressive one,” Griffin said.
Griffin started the game with 14 points in the first quarter, mostly barreling his way to basket and getting to the foul line. And as the Clippers tried to hold onto a tenuous fourth-quarter lead, Griffin added a dozen in the fourth.
He was knocked down and battered plenty in between. Griffin crashed to the floor after a foul by Russell Westbrook on a fast-break layup attempt and wore a protective sleeve over his right arm the remainder of the game. He took an elbow from Ibaka that left blood streaming from his nostrils in the third quarter.
But it did not prevent Griffin from doing what he set out to do: put pressure on Oklahoma City in a different way than he did earlier in the series.
“He was hard to contain last night,” said Thunder forward Caron Butler, who played with Griffin for two seasons with the Clippers.
And even though, Butler’s head coach might have been secretly pumping his fist when Griffin fired a jump shot, Butler said Griffin’s improvement from the perimeter makes him even more difficult to guard.
“Not just [attacking], but willing to shoot the ball,” Butler said when asked what differences he’s noticed in Griffin now compared to when they were teammates. “You see him the pockets a lot where he’s not hesitating on his shot and that’s good to see out of him.”
And even after a loss, Griffin’s aggressiveness could be good to see for the Clippers as well.