Griffin Flies High, Team Effort Lifts Clippers In Charlotte

CHARLOTTE – As Blake Griffin continued his near triple-double ways Saturday afternoon, adding Miles Plumlee to the collection of victims featured on his most jaw-dropping poster dunks, he needed assistance.

Griffin already entered Saturday afternoon averaging 28.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in February, posting 31 points against Golden State and a triple-double against Toronto, but wins hadn’t followed.

What changed in a New York victory during his season-high 32-point performance, and then again Saturday in a 20-point, 12-rebound, eight-assist day holding off the Hornets in a 107-102 victory, was the help around him.

“You’re not going to do it with one person at the defensive end,” Griffin said. “You’re not going to do it with one person on the offensive end, either. You need everybody.”

That’s what they got, and it was just enough to hold off a late-surging Hornets group.

Without Chris Paul, the Clippers know it can’t just be one or two players with standout performances if they’re going to leave with wins. Every player after Saturday’s game mentioned the phrase “team effort” in some form or fashion, something they know will need to continue if the Clippers want to add to their first winning streak in nearly a month.

“It’s going to take multiple guys stepping up,” said Crawford, who scored a team-high 22 points Saturday, passing Vince Carter for No. 5 all-time in 3-pointers made in the process. “It may not always be points, it may be assists, rebounds, a charge, a big steal, whatever it might be.”

In New York, beyond Griffin’s season high in scoring, it was DeAndre Jordan adding 28 points and 15 rebounds, Austin Rivers adding a career-high 10 assists and Jamal Crawford stepping up with 20 points off the bench. If any of those performances don’t occur, the Clippers don’t overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.

To leave Charlotte with a win, the Clippers needed even more than that, though it didn’t hurt to have Griffin flying through the air the way he did.

They needed Marreese Speights, whose eight points in five first-quarter minutes were essential in eliminating an 11-point deficit after Jordan went to the bench with foul trouble.

They needed Raymond Felton, who continues to fight through various ailments, adding nine points, seven rebounds and five assists, playing what head coach Doc Rivers described as an “under-the-rim” game, bringing a toughness that allowed him to contribute in a variety of areas in the box score.

They needed Austin Rivers, whose 18 points and four 3-pointers weren’t as important as his defense on Kemba Walker, the Hornets’ All-Star guard who finished 4-for-18 from the floor.

And it was Crawford they may have needed most, constantly coming up with timely shots on his way to his fourth 20-plus-point performance in his last five games, taking and making long-range shots most players wouldn’t think of attempting as he finished an efficient 5-for-8 from deep.

“Everybody came in and contributed, whether it showed on the stat sheet or not,” Crawford said. “It was a total team effort.”

Every Clippers bench player finished on the right side of the plus-minus department, with the reserves combining to go 16-for-31 on the night, highlighted by Crawford’s standout performance.

“Jamal was great, banking 3s, it was just good,” Doc Rivers said. “Jamal – and I don’t say this often, but – the last three games defensively, he’s been really good. If I could say that four or five more times this year, I’m going to be extremely happy.”

It’s on that side of the floor the Clippers know they need to patch things together most, allowing at least 100 points for the 11th straight game Saturday, though they continue to see signs of improvement in that regard.

It wasn’t until Walker’s 3-pointer in the final seconds that the Hornets crossed the 100-point mark, and they feel they’re taking strides in particular with their help defense, which played into Walker’s limited effectiveness.

“We’ve got to build off this,” Austin Rivers said, as the Clippers now attempt to finish off the road trip with a third straight win Monday in Utah.