For most teams there would be little excitement down the stretch, for most teams it would have been a pleasant malaise as they watched their home team run the Bobcats off the floor. I’m not saying it wasn’t a welcome surprise to watch the Clippers hold the Bobs to 40 percent shooting and 23 percent from three while only turning the ball over 6 times overall (twice in the first half). Those were all great things, but for the normal team, that would result in the lackadaisical fourth quarters when no one cares about the rest of the game. But not the Clippers, because they have Blake Griffin.
You could look at the box score and see Blake’s dominance. He had 19 points on 9 for 18 shooting, 8 rebounds, two assists and a steal in the first half alone (finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three assists). But what the box score didn’t show were his highlights, and man these were some beauties.
Remember those almost full court lobs Baron was throwing Blake a couple weeks ago? Randy Foye decided to give that one a try in the second quarter, heaving one from the opposite three point line right to Blake as he beat everyone down the court, leapt and flushed it down. Blake likes to get out, sometimes cherry picking (he did this earlier in the game), but what you should watch in the video is where he starts when the rebound comes down. He is underneath the rim. Not at the free throw line, not at the three point line, not half court, Blake beats every single player down the court in the same amount of time it took DeAndre to secure the ball, pass it to Randy Foye and Randy to make a couple dribbles and launch it. Watch the video, he even beats the camera man out of the picture.
And it didn’t stop there, he had another dunk off a Randy Foye lob, a dunk after Gerald Wallace block on Cookie, one while he cherry picked and the topper, his Oklahoma Tornado where he spun off of his defender on the baseline only to get another defender to commit and he spun again to lay it in. And get the foul. Blake is undoubtedly one of the most amazing talents I’ve ever seen.
The opposing defense can’t even come close to stopping him on nights like these, to start out the third he had two men on him when he drop stepped and muscled his way into a layup and the foul. Blake customarily calmed down in the third, but back in the fourth there was a play where Blake beat Derrick Brown for the alley-oop, only Baron didn’t want to throw the lob from near half court with Shaun Livingston on him. Recalibrating, Blake sets back up in the post only to then again go for the alley-oop, when the level of surprise was basically non-existant and he caught the pass and laid the ball in without much problem. He is just that good, he can call his shots.
Even his almost dunk was amazing. His failed dunk in the fourth quarter, when he leapt high, double clutched the pass (it was a great pass) to get more power and then attempted to dunk the ball by means of crushing the entire rim. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, but I’m waiting for Blake to be the first dunker to break a rim.
While there have been a lot of spectacular nights for Blake, this has to be one of his best highlight nights. Every basket astonished the crowd.
But we can’t forget the rest of the team. Even though the Clippers lost Eric Gordon, Randy Foye has jumped in admirably. First game without Gordon, 15 points on 5 for 9 shooting with 4 assists. Second game he had 20 points on 7 for 17 shooting. Had he not missed shots in the fourth in Houston like the entire Clipper team, he would have had not just a good night, but a great night. And then tonight he had 21 points on 6 for 15 shooting (like Houston, another inefficient fourth), 4 for 10 from three, four assists. Those fill-in games average out to 18.7 points on 44 percent shooting, 100 percent from the line, 3 assists and 1.7 steals. That’s a pretty good three game stretch for a guy who is accustomed to coming off the bench. And his defense has been great too. Foye held DJ Augustin to 13 points and 4 assists on 4 for 12 shooting and 3 turnovers after holding Kevin Martin of the Rockets to 8 points on 3 for 11 shooting.
You’d think that Baron would take on DJ but with the size and strength advantage for Stephen Jackson at the two guard, the Clippers needed a stronger perimeter player on Captain Jack. Jackson was the reason that the Bobcats remained in the game in the first half, his behind the head shot is almost uncontestable for anyone, let alone Baron who gives up 6 inches to Captain Jack. That said, the Clippers and Baron played Jack really well in the second half, holding him scoreless after he went for 14 in the first half. That back and forth in effectiveness was emblematic of Baron’s game tonight. Not only did he switch it up on Stephen Jackson but he reverted between (mostly) Good Baron and Bad Baron for stretches of the night. When he came off a screen and shot an contested three without getting anyone else involved in the play, but then he would go back to Good Baron for large swathes of the game, handing out 11 assists. He’s so integral to the team, particularly wit Eric Gordon out because Baron is the one that controls the flow of the game, getting even Ryan Gomes involved (17 points!) in an offense that clearly needs everyone to pitch in to make up for EJ’s absence.
There were even productive minutes from Ike and Cookie. Sure Ike struggled with the quickness and height of the Bobcats and Cookie was brutally blocked twice by Gerald Wallace (Cook, never the most explosive, looked even less so on his tender ankle), but they contributed where they should. Ike snatched 6 rebounds and scored 10 points in 18 minutes and Cook made two of his three shots from beyond the parabola.
But the Clippers have already proven that they can win at home, when they have the comfort of the positive crowd. What they haven’t shown is the ability to do it on the road. It may be too late for this season, but as tonight proved, even meaningless minutes or games will be exciting with Blake on the team.