Griffin Looks Back To Normal Guiding Clippers Past Suns
PHOENIX – It could’ve been Blake Griffin’s early alley-oop finish, or one of a handful of other dunks, or any of his 10 made baskets on 14 shot attempts that left the most lasting impression Wednesday night for head coach Doc Rivers, but it wasn’t any of those.
It could’ve been the flashy between-the-legs pass that somehow found a cutting J.J. Redick for a reverse layup in the first quarter, but it wasn’t that one, either.
Rivers’ favorite play from Griffin didn’t end in any of his 29 points, nor was it a gaudy or athletic display. Rather, it was a play that required more brains than brute.
Griffin could’ve set a season high in points with another basket, but with the Clippers nursing a seven-point lead approaching the two-minute mark against a Suns team that would never go away, he shied away from forcing up a shot.
Instead, he drew in the defense, then found Raymond Felton with a cross-court pass and watched the guard, who scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, drill the dagger to get the lead to double digits and put Phoenix away.
“He posted up, let them trap him, then made the right play and Raymond makes a 3,” Rivers said. “This was the best Blake today, by far. I thought he played in different gears. He knew when to go, he knew when not to.”
Griffin put all of his offensive skills on display in his third game back from right knee surgery, also adding eight rebounds and five assists and going 9-for-10 from the free-throw line as he tied his season high in points. He took elbow jumpers when they were there, but he preferred to attack the paint in a calculated manner.
He was every bit his dynamic self, a player Jamal Crawford said is always in the MVP conversation when he’s on the court.
“It’s good to see him in form, flying through the air, making plays, doing everything,” said Crawford, who added a team-high 14 points off the bench. “That’s who Blake is.”
Griffin was never out of control, but he wasn’t timid, as evidenced by the pinpoint accuracy on the miraculously-placed between the legs pass to Redick as part of a 13-point, three-rebound, three-assist first quarter.
“I was just going to come back out and I saw J.J. go, and I just let it fly,” Griffin said. “If it was a turnover, I would’ve looked really, really bad.”
But it wasn’t, and he didn’t. Griffin turned it over just one time in 34 minutes of action, his most playing time since his return.
Rivers always says ball-handling, rhythm and timing are the hardest parts of the game to get back immediately after an injury. For Griffin, that was no exception in his first game on the floor following an 18-game hiatus last Tuesday, committing six turnovers in Philadelphia. Physically, though, Griffin came out of that game fine.
Then, he got two days to practice and prepare for Golden State. Despite a game the Clippers would like to have back, for Griffin, there was a clear trend the right direction. He scored a team-high 20 points and consistently won his 1-on-1 battles, committing just two turnovers.
Then, two more days to practice. And again, a better version of Griffin.
From the jump, one thing was clear: Griffin is back.
“A game, two practices, another game, two more practices helps a lot,” Griffin said. “It might’ve taken a little bit longer, but I felt pretty good. That comes with the flow of the offense.”
Paul Makes Progress
Rivers joked he wanted to activate Chris Paul, after watching the injured guard move around and get shots up on the court before the Clippers’ practice Tuesday as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.
“That was the one thing, the blessing that it was the other hand – the left hand – that he’d be able to shoot and run and play right away,” Rivers said. “You just can’t touch him, but he looks good. Honestly, he looked amazing yesterday. I was thinking, hell, can’t we just put him in and put a cast on that thing and go for it.”
That, however, isn’t possible, as Paul is just two weeks into a six-to-eight-week recovery, wearing a protective covering around his surgically-repaired thumb. Rivers said there’s no new timetable for the injured guard, but because the thumb injury is on Paul’s off-hand, he can still get work done on the court as he heals.
“He just can’t receive a lot of passes with his left (hand) yet,” Rivers said.
Rivers said he assumes Paul won’t be on the Clippers’ upcoming East Coast road trip, preferring Paul stay behind for treatment and rehab, but this week was an encouraging development in the point guard’s progress.