With the Clippers down 42-39, Blake Griffin found himself on the break with the opportunity for a breakaway slam dunk. He tried to split the defense of Jodie Meeks and Tony Battie, only Meeks nicked Blake in the face and Tony Battie grabbed Blake from behind, knocking him to the ground. Blake fired up and looked ready to throw punches to Battie. Happy Birthday, Blake.
The rest of Blake’s birthday night didn’t go much better, he only made one of two flagrant foul shots, and he finished the game with his fifth consecutive non-double double. The fact that his lack of double doubles is news shows how good Blake has become, but Blake’s high level of play has also become part of what the team relies on. Against the Sixers, he scored 14 points on 3 for 12 shooting and 8 for 15 from the line while only grabbing 8 rebounds. He did block two shots, but his aggressive behavior (some calls that he wasn’t happy with) caused him to foul out.
The weakest part of his play occurred in the third quarter when the Clippers were outscored 30-19 behind 67 percent shooting from the field and from three by the 76ers. Blake may have grabbed 4 points and 2 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for the Clippers with Elton Brand grabbing 8 rebounds to go with 4 points.
There are a whole host of possible reasons why Blake has played poorly lately: Rookie wall; he’s played 17 of the last 20 games on the road (with All Star Weekend in there too); Eric Gordon not in the games to space out the defense; Mo Williams not getting him easy enough shots. Most likely, it’s all of those reasons.
At this point in the season, only one of those is fixable. Mo Williams will have to figure out how to play with Blake. In such a short time, Mo has played admirably as the Clippers are 5-4 with Mo Williams in the lineup. Compare that to Baron’s start with the team or Bledsoe’s run at the beginning and you immediately see the difference. So patience is in order, and in a year when the Clippers are virtually assured of missing the playoffs, isn’t patience acceptable? Remember all those lobs that Bledsoe, Baron and Foye errantly threw at the beginning of the year? Mo has had those, but like the other three, he’ll be able to develop as he’s an underrated passer (because he was forced to play off ball with LeBron).
What Mo won’t ever be is an elite defender, as this game against the Sixers clearly showed. Granted, Jrue Holiday is the exact type of point guard that Mo will struggle guarding (Jrue is big and long), but Mo was torched by Holiday tonight. He gave up 20 points on 8 for 12 shooting and 9 assists. Still, there will be a point when Mo makes up for those shortcomings and learns the spots that Blake wants the ball in the pick and rolls, and in which areas he shoots the ball best (Blake had two shots from the top of the key, both misses, and zero shots out on the extended block). There is still improvement to be made.
Let’s be honest, as good as Bledsoe has been, even in this game he struggled to shut Holiday down, too. Bledsoe was largely responsible for the 10-0 run to bring the Clippers back into the game (he scored the layup before the third quarter buzzer, dished out a beautiful assist to DeAndre, lulled the Sixers to sleep before driving for a layup and also made a jumper), but Jrue Holiday did just as much damage. Holiday abused Bledsoe on the block and out on the perimeter. Jrue scored 9 points in the fourth quarter, with Bledsoe his cover for the majority of the time. Jrue put the game away.
After the game, Blake hardly looked in celebratory mood, and it was completely understood. The Clippers were thoroughly undressed, Blake just as much as anyone, and that’s not going to make the birthday feel any better.
- Jodie Meeks? Really? He’s a dead eye shooter but the Clippers need to know that and close out on him so that he doesn’t score 22 points with 5 threes.
- DeAndre Jordan was a mixed bag tonight. He had amazing stats, and his activity showed in many spots (like his offensive rebound at the end of the third quarter that he put back in before the buzzer) but he also struggled mightily on Elton Brand. He had to switch over to Brand because Blake doesn’t have defense in his arsenal yet, but even DeAndre struggled. There were times when DeAndre got a hand in Brand’s face, but I’m not sure that DeAndre really knew how to figure out Brand, with EB playing away from the basket so much.
- Blake didn’t take advantage of the post offense, well neither did Kaman. In 19 minutes, Kaman scored 8 points on 4 for 12 shooting, with 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. Most disconcerting? That Kaman settled for jump shots against a team not typically good at defending in the post.
- Elton Brand played very well against the Clippers, guarding Blake on one end (5 blocks) and schooling DeAndre (and sometimes Kaman) on the other (19 points on 7 for 15 shooting).
- Clippers had 17 turnovers to the Sixers 11. Not the differential they were looking for, the Sixers’ defense only directly forced 5 but the Clippers looked rushed all night.
- Aminu played well in the first half, as he posted his game totals of 5 points and 6 rebounds. Obviously, that makes the second half problematic with Aminu. When Aminu is active he looks like the kind of player that will be successful in the NBA for years to come. But when he drifts around the perimeter, fake dribble drives and passes out, Aminu makes you want Ryan Gomes back out there, which is really saying something considering how bad Gomes has been playing.
- Speaking of Gomes, 0-3 tonight and he’s looking less and less like a rotation player. I like Gomes and thought he was a decent signing, especially with his contract, but he’s been massively underwhelming.