LOS ANGELES-He runs. He spins. He flies. He blocks shots. He jumps over a defender in a single bound. He dunks with intensified conviction. His warmups are even worth watching. He is the answer to the spectacular. Yes, Blake Griffin is rising-again. That’s great news for the Los Angeles Clippers. That’s not so welcoming news for everybody else.
After scoring a season-high 43 points against the Charlotte Hornets, Griffin looked very much like the league’s top 5 player that he was before he got sidelined with several injuries last season.
That pep in Griffin’s step he showed in converting 15 of 26 field goal against the Hornets at Staples Center in a thrilling 124-121 overtime win was reminiscent of the way he used to dominate teams on a routine basis. Griffin looks sharp. He looks refreshed and primed to be unleashed do his thing as the countdown to the NBA postseason is on.
When Griffin is clicking, the rest of the Clippers are not too far behind. J.J. Redick, coming off of a below-average showing against the San Antonio Spurs, kind off rolled off of Griffin’s monster night with a solid 22-point performance against the Hornets.
“It feels good to have a good shooting game,” Redick said as the Clippers begin a brutal stretch of home and away games with the regular season winding down.
Griffin is on as he was against the Hornets, there is virtually nothing an opposing player or team can do to stop him.
If the Clippers have aspirations to go deep into the playoffs, it is critical to the team’s success that Griffin plays with the same kind of controlled, reckless abandonment that has vaulted him into superstar status.
No more Mr. Nice Guy. Man, forget that. The Clippers need Griffin to do what he did against Charlotte on an annual night basis, and that is to dominate. After a lengthy absence following a procedure on his knee in December, Griffin has upped his game production-night in and night out.
He looks like he’s having fun doing it.
Clippers’ floor general, point guard Chris Paul, fresh off of returning from his own injury, has seen plenty of Griffin in the last six years to know what to expect from his high-flying teammate. He’s come to expect this kind of play from Griffin.
“He’s just super-duper aggressive as we like,” Paul said in response to a reporter’s question in regards to the level of play he’s seen from Griffin since the team’s starting power came back from his surgery. “Me and Blake talk before the game, as we walk out on the court, about being aggressive. He could have had more…(He) probably could have went for 50, 60 (points) something. He’s a guy capable that every night where he’s so unselfish, which is why he is the player he is.”
Since coming off of that procedure, Griffin has been gradually picking up his offensive steam. In February, Griffin led the Clippers in scoring nine of the 10 times they played. He capped off the month off with his 43-point, 10 rebound night masterpiece.
The Clippers needed every one of those 43 points from Griffin to stave off the pesky Hornets. With the victory, the Clippers stopped the early bleeding that resulted from an 0-2 start against Golden State and San Antonio. Going 0-3, with the almost real possibility of dropping their first two home games at home after the all-star break, would have been unacceptable.
“It’s just good to get a win,” said Paul, who wound up one rebound away from a triple-double (15 points, 17 assists and nine rebounds) against Charlotte in his second game returning from an injury.
With key game dates against Houston, New York, Cleveland, San Antonio, Utah, Boston and Washington, the Clippers are going to need Griffin to keep up his attack mode style of play.
“We’ve been together now for six years, and Blake has had some crazy runs,” said Paul. “We expect that from him.”
Griffin expects that from himself as well, acknowledging he’s ramped up his play since re-joining the team.
“Just being a little more aggressive at times. I feel like my shot, right before I went out, was the best it was going,” Griffin said. “I didn’t feel great about it early on, but then basically I was able to get on the court pretty early throughout that injury and maintain that feeling.”
With teams in the NBA’s Western Conference jockeying for playoff position, the Clippers are going to desperately going to need Griffin’s services. In a bad storybook ending, the Clippers didn’t have their big man or Paul when both went down to season injuries against Portland in the playoffs last season. They have him now. That’s all that matters.
Redick, who marveled at the way Griffin has been playing lately, knows what time it is when it comes to Griffin’s impact on the floor, particularly in how it benefits his outside shooting game.
“Other than maybe the Golden State game recently, he’s been awesome,” said Redick.