Kevin Arnovitz weighs in on the budding chemistry between Blake Griffin and Chris Paul over at TrueHoop. Here’s an excerpt from his wonderful post:
On a Saturday afternoon last spring, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin took the podium in the interview room at Staples Center after the Clippers’ Game 3 comeback 87-86 win over Memphis in the first round.
It was the franchise’s first home playoff win since 2006 and the second-half rally was fueled by Chris Paul in a most typical Chris Paul way. Pull-up jumpers. Wily steals. But the signature moment of the game was an incredible flash of improvisation by Paul.
The play took place with about 90 seconds to go in a 2-point game, the kind of slow-to-evolve possession when even the least inspired defenders on the floor are digging in and every ounce of consciousness is focused on the basketball.
From the top of the floor with his left hand, Paul blew by O.J. Mayo. When Paul met Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint, he flicked the ball between the big men to Griffin, who had dived from the right wing to the rim. Griffin was looking for a lob — you can even see him gather himself for a leap — but Paul delivered the ball directly in Griffin’s path underneath the Grizzlies’ defense. The resulting jam was Griffin’s easiest basket of an otherwise brutal series.
At the podium, Paul described what was going through his head during the possession: Paul saw how Gasol and Randolph had left a little daylight between them. He also saw the baseline and Griffin’s angle in from the wing. But most of all he saw Griffin’s “Blake Face” — the signal that his big man is hungry to finish at the rim.
Paul’s 3-year-old son, sitting on his father’s lap at the podium, then demonstrated “Blake Face” for the media. The clip immediately became part of NBA TV’s postseason montage.
The scene was a living fantasy for the Clippers’ organization and its fans. Here was the best point guard on the planet sitting with his charming kid alongside the most dynamic young talent in the league, the blue NBA Playoffs background draped behind them. It was May and the team had played to a raucous, sold-out house.
For the first time in Los Angeles, the team had a living, breathing identity other than its miserly, irksome owner. In Paul and Griffin, the Clippers had two telegenic stars, a magician and a superhero. The pair had charisma and was intensely likable to the vast majority of basketball fans.
And while the shtick as a podium tandem was infectious, Paul and Griffin were really starting to build chemistry on the floor. That’s what Paul’s brilliant feed in traffic and Griffin’s thunderous dunk were all about.