With every jump shot Blake Griffin knocks down, a potential nightmare for Clippers opponents is slowly becoming reality.
Chris Paul alluded to it a couple of weeks earlier when he said his fellow All-Star teammate could become “unguardable” if the perimeter game he works so hard to perfect comes to fruition.
In the last six games, Griffin is shooting 39.3% (11-of-28) from 15 feet or beyond. It is the third-highest shooting percentage on the team from that range, behind Paul and Caron Butler. Against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, he scored a shrewd 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 29 minutes, squaring up to bank in a 13-footer, and confidently draining a pair of 18-foot jumpers.
“I feel more consistent, more comfortable,” Griffin said after Sunday morning’s practice. “Now when I shoot, I feel like it’s going to go in. It’s not like I second guess or anything like that.”
Griffin’s lack of hesitation from the perimeter, combined with the newfound presence of DeAndre Jordan in the post and Chauncey Billups’ return on the perimeter, opens things up dramatically for the Clippers’ offense. Perhaps more than anything it allows the league’s most prolific finisher more airspace.
“He gets a lot of those shots because when people get up on him, the way he handles the ball and once he gets by you it’s a problem, so teams are going to pick their spots on him,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “As he makes those shots consistently it’s going to open up a lot of things for him, everybody, and his whole game.”
In addition to Griffin’s improved game from the midrange, he has also been proficient from the free throw line, connecting on 10 of his last 14 foul shots and knocking down a career-high 62.2% on the year. Griffin says he’s happy with the progress, but acknowledges there are still areas that he and shooting coach Bob Thate are trying to refine.
“Most of the time now when I miss I hold the ball a little too long, so I’m shooting it on the way down,” Griffin said. “My posture’s a lot better as far as going straight up and down. Sometimes I hold the ball, sometimes it comes back a little too far, but the coming back too far is minor. The thing I’m working on now is making sure I’m shooting on the way up every single time.”
Del Negro has noticed Griffin's mechanics coming along. “He works on it every morning,” he said. “His shot’s getting tighter. He’s understanding more when he misses and why. And he’s just kind of staying with the mechanics. He’s made big strides, say, from the summer to now and he’s just got to continue working on it.”
It was more of the same for the 23-year-old superstar Sunday. After his post-practice media session, Griffin returned to the court nearby to continue additional work with Thate, despite needing to catch a plane bound for Salt Lake City two hours later. His teammates see the dedication, which has spurred Griffin even more.
“The most encouraging thing is my teammates,” Griffin said. “Every game, every practice, before every game, a lot of guys will come up and be like, ‘Shoot it. We see you working on it every day. Shoot it.’ That helps a lot to know that your teammates want you to shoot that shot.”
Opponents may feel differently, though. The more Griffin shoots it, the more likely they’ll have to crowd him on the perimeter, nightmare realized.