Clippers lose opener to Trail Blazers, 98-88, despite a roaring debut for Blake Griffin
You knew the official unveiling of one Blake Griffin would not be subtle, slow or remotely methodical.
How about a fast, furious and almost impressively violent entrance?
It may well go down as one of those games where very few people — well, outside of Portland — actually remember what the final score was in a couple of weeks. For the record, Portland beat the Clippers, 98-88, on Wednesday night at Staples Center, using a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to put it away.
Still the fans certainly won’t forget Griffin’s NBA debut.
In about a two-minute stretch in the first quarter, Griffin dunked with his right hand, dunked with his other hand off a rebound, and in between those two highlight-reel plays, added a driving layup.
He finished with a tidy double-double, scoring 20 points and adding 14 rebounds and four assists.
If anyone was wondering that there was some pent-up energy behind that onslaught, that would be a correct assessment.
“It probably was. I don’t know. Yeah you could say that. There was a little frustration taken out on the rim,” said Griffin, the NBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2009 who had his rookie year halted before it even started when he suffered a stress fracture of his left kneecap in the Clippers’ final preseason game last year.
Not only did that happen, but the power forward had to listen to cutting jibes that he might be the next Greg Oden, the injury-riddled Trail Blazer.
Those words fell by the wayside once Griffin started soaring above the rim in the preseason. His knee was stable and the only small physical issue of any sort he had was with a sprained ankle.
That left only this burning question. It was one asked by his new Clippers coach, Vinny Del Negro, in a pregame session with the media.
“What’s his NBA game right now?” Del Negro said.
“Well, we’re going to find out as he goes through this there’s going to be some growing pains and we just have to keep working. He’s one of those guys — you have to throw him out of the gym. And that’s a great quality.”
What his NBA game right now?
Asked and answered, sort of.
“Let’s just be patient and give him some time,” Del Negro said after the game. “That’s what we have to do. Everyone wants to — especially with the young guys — compare them. But let Blake Griffin be Blake Griffin and we’ll work through that a little bit and give him a little time.”
Growing pains were not limited to Griffin. The Clippers are still trying to figure out how to play together, struggling for a measure of consistency.
All five of Portland’s starters finished in double figures.
What undid the Clippers was a crucial five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter. With the Clippers ahead, 80-76, with 81/2 minutes remaining, the Trail Blazers scored 15 straight points before Baron Davis hit a free throw.
The Clippers’ Chris Kaman, who had a desultory night, going four for 18 for eight points, struggled during that decisive run, missing a 16-footer, a four-footer and having another shot blocked.