Blake Griffin’s return to his home state starts off the Clippers return to the road. The road trip is only three more games, and one is in Los Angeles, so the end is nigh. although the last few days have been uniquely taxing for Blake. Not only did Blake participate in the Rookie-Sophomore Game, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, and the big boys’ All Star Game, but he flew to Oklahoma City immediately after the weekend to be the pallbearer for his high school teammate Wilson Holloway’s funeral yesterday. Although there were physical demands for the weekend, they pale in comparison to the emotional demands.
More than a Blake dedication or an ESPN headline for the majority of us, Holloway was a friend to Blake and to acknowledge the possibility of absolute loss of potential must be hard for BG to manage. Greater perspective than just sitting out a year due to knee injury is there to be gleaned: just as much as there is potential for greatness, there is potential for a quick demise in all of us. The commonality of always possible and inevitable death accentuates the value of those that can be great in life. Many with that potential don’t ever arrive at their destination, the passing years only sees the waning of that promise, and the future retrospective can be crushing. But what makes these moments so brutal is that the loss effects a rapid drop off: full of life ahead and aptitude to a complete impossibility and absence. There is no way to know how Blake will handle this (everyone here at ClipperBlog sends their condolences to the Holloway Family and their friends).
Not exactly the exuberant return home that Blake might have been anticipating at the beginning of the season, but because of his strong family, dedication and sense of professionalism, I would bet that Blake still plays his hardest tonight, but I won’t blame him if his thoughts are elsewhere. That’s not being unprofessional, that’s just being human.
Keys to the Game
– Former UCLA point guards. Baron Davis loves to teach a thing or two to his younger brethren, only that usually involves them being much smaller too. Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Earl Watson are all small, so Baron can muscle them inside. However, Westbrook is much stronger than those other UCLA points and he’s a very good defender. So how Baron handles the match-up, whether he raises his level of play or just increases the amount of hero plays, will play a large part in the outcome.
– Kevin Durant, repeat performance, please. I’m not sure how, but KD scored only 16 points on 6 for 24 shooting night. He’s the best scorer in the league, so it’s unlikely that he’ll have another game like this. Ryan Gomes, Al-Farouq Aminu and the rest of the team are going to have to find away to limit his open threes (KD makes 33 percent, 82.4 percent of which are assisted) and keep him from getting to the line (shoots 88 percent on 9 free throw attempts per game).
– On the block. Serge Ibaka had a strong showing at the dunk contest, with his free throw line jam and picking the toy from the rim dunk, but the fact remains that the Thunder are still susceptible to interior threat. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Kaman need to be featured in the Clips offense tonight because the Thunder just do not have anyone that can contain versatile big men. Obviously, Blake Griffin will be the main point, but the Clippers need Kaman to have some effective touches as well.
Craig Smith: herniated disc, probable
Eric Gordon: wrist/back, day to day (did not travel, so, out)