Clippers' Blake Griffin is the ultimate triple threat against Spurs

Blake Griffin helps Clippers tie their series against San Antonio, leading the team in rebounds and assists

The NBA's leading rebounder shuffled in and out of the game because of his inability to make free throws.

The league's leader in assists had to go to the bench for a brief stretch in the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul.

The absences of DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul weren't as crippling as they might have been in Game 4 of the Clippers' first-round playoff series Sunday because of the presence of Blake Griffin.

Griffin got the rebounds Jordan usually snagged and delivered the passes Paul usually made, the All-Star power forward helping his team tie a best-of-seven series against the San Antonio Spurs at two games apiece. One of two deadlocked series in the NBA resumes with Game 5 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Griffin collected 19 rebounds and seven assists Sunday to go with his 20 points while playing the entire second half of the Clippers' 114-105 victory. He has become the ultimate triple threat in the playoffs, leading the Clippers in rebounds (13.3 per game) and assists (7.3) while ranking second on the team in points (22.3) behind only Paul (23.5).

"Blake has really taken the lead on both ends of the floor now," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said Monday. "Really it's a complete game of offense, whether it's picking and popping, attacking the basket, making shots or making plays for others, which is huge."

The Clippers have needed Griffin's all-around production because of a spotty bench and a dropoff in play from Barnes, who is averaging only 5.3 points in the series and sustained a strained right shoulder in Game 4. Barnes had the shoulder heavily wrapped when he spoke with reporters but is expected to play Tuesday.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin responded to his challenge to players to contribute beyond their usual roles, a necessity in a series that has assumed a Finals-like intensity.

"Blake decided, well, I'm going to help the team by getting [19] rebounds," Rivers said.

Griffin said his priorities have been defense and rebounding at a time when his team needs assistance in both areas against the defending NBA champions. Griffin has also led the Clippers in one playoff category they wouldn't mind him lagging in a bit: minutes played.

Griffin has averaged a series-high 41.3 minutes per game after playing nearly 43 minutes in Game 4 but said he was "feeling fine minutes-wise." Rivers said he had instructed his players to call a timeout if they were tired.

"You don't even have to ask me," Rivers said, "just call a timeout because I would rather have a timeout wasted than our pace wasted."

The Clippers largely maintained the pace they wanted Sunday, even when they were running their half-court offense. It was all part of playing with the sense of urgency that had been missing in their 27-point loss in Game 3.

"We shouldn't have had to make that a point after Game 3," Griffin said. "But we did, and it was great how we responded."

Rivers said the Clippers and Spurs are so evenly matched that the series could be decided by execution. That was something that eluded Griffin in the final seconds of Game 2, when he twice dribbled between his legs and lost the ball on a crucial turnover with the Clippers leading by two points.

The Spurs tied the score and went on to win in overtime.

Griffin and his teammates showed resolve in shrugging off back-to-back defeats in Game 4, though they would prefer not to be put in a desperate position again.

"I think through some trials and when your back's against the wall, you do find out a little bit about who you are," Griffin said. "But you can also show that with how you handle success as well. We'd much rather not have to deal with those trials, but I do think it does show you a little bit about yourself when you do handle that."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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