Sports

The good news: Clippers' Blake Griffin has become all-around threat

The word on Blake Griffin has changed.

All he does is debunk.

Lest anyone is still clinging to the ridiculous belief that he is just a dunking marvel, the Clippers forward offered another retort Wednesday night at Staples Center.

He led fastbreaks. He made midrange jumpers. He flung smart passes to open teammates.

Problem was, not enough of those teammates showed up during the Clippers' too-little, too-late 107-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Griffin and Chris Paul came to play, but they aren't going to take the Clippers anywhere playing two on five.

"It's encouraging knowing that we never stopped fighting, but the biggest problem was putting ourselves in that position in the first place," Griffin said. "A 17-point deficit, you're not going to win many of those games."

The Clippers (55-24) were vying for playoff positioning, needing a victory to pull to within a half-game of the Thunder (57-21) for the No. 2 seeding in the West. Go ahead and put them at No. 3 with a red Sharpie. They are not going to make up a 21/2-game deficit with three games left in their season.

Don't blame Griffin. He was everywhere, diving for loose balls, tipping in missed free throws and scoring in transition. His first dunk didn't come until late in the second quarter, when he faked a pass and drove for a one-handed slam on a fastbreak.

Griffin can do it all and did, the diversification of his game representing his team's biggest leap forward in its quest to become a Finals contender.

They are no longer just a bunch of athletic guys and Paul. Griffin gives them another savvy presence who can execute a variety of moves and involve his teammates.

He played probable most valuable player Kevin Durant to a push, finishing with 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting to go with 12 rebounds. Durant had 27 points on a somewhat shaky night in which he made only eight of 26 shots.

Griffin memorably backed Durant into the paint in the second quarter for a turnaround four-foot hook shot. Griffin certainly wasn't perfect. He stalled his team's fourth-quarter rally by throwing a lob to DeAndre Jordan that sailed out of bounds and missing two free throws.

But the Clippers wouldn't be trendy picks to make the deepest playoff run in franchise history without him.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said before the game that Durant was his MVP, with Griffin in second place, ahead of Miami's LeBron James. Of course, Rivers almost has to vouch for his own player.

"I still think LeBron is the best player in the NBA, but I think Durant has had an MVP year," Rivers said. "I really believe that. I don't know who has had a better year and I honestly think Blake would be right behind him, in my opinion, but I don't think I have a vote."

Griffin's scoring, rebounding and free-throw shooting percentages are up from last season and he's added a more reliable midrange jumper, the result of what he's called his commitment to the process of becoming great.

He's even found a way to disarm the national media, joking that he was "terrified" he would revive criticisms that he was too one-dimensional after his dunking display in the All-Star game.

That's not to say there isn't still room for growth. His defense can be spotty and he can fail to restrain himself, as evidenced by the technical foul he received in the first half Wednesday for complaining about a non-call on the Thunder's Steven Adams. That gave Griffin 15 technical fouls, one below the threshold that would trigger an automatic one-game suspension.

"I just thought there should have been a whistle," Griffin said.

He'll have to be careful he doesn't talk his way out of a game at a time when the Clippers need him for all the other things he does so well.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Comments
Loading