One is a power forward with a point guard’s skill set who likes to lead fastbreaks.
The other is a small forward with a shooting guard’s touch and the length to defend 7-footers.
If it seems like there’s almost nothing the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Indiana’s Paul George can’t do on a basketball court, it’s no exaggeration.
Their ability to do a lot of everything is reflected in their being the only players in the NBA to average at least 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game this season.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers could take only so much of George’s all-around excellence while watching the Indiana Pacers star decimate the Lakers on Sunday. Maybe that’s because Rivers’ team faces George on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
“After Paul George made his fourth three,” Rivers said of the player who finished the game with five three-point baskets and 39 points, “I turned the TV off. I didn’t want to watch anymore.”
Griffin was must-see again Monday while helping the Clippers pick up a third consecutive victory, collecting 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists during the team’s 102-87 triumph over Portland.
Griffin’s progression as one of the game’s top players is largely tied to his improved outside shooting. He’s making 43.3% of his jump shots from 16 feet to the three-point line, up from 40.7% last season and 37.5% in 2013-14.
“He’s so comfortable now with his shot that I think he’s no longer just looking for his shot, which is a strange thing to say,” Rivers said. “He’s mixing it up better and that’s because he has great confidence in it.”
George also has no reason to hesitate. He’s making 45.9% of his shots and 45.5% of his three-point tries, both career bests in what has been a strong return from the broken leg he suffered in the summer of 2014.
George is averaging 27.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists, numbers that nearly mirror Griffin’s 25.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
Griffin may have to do more facilitating against the Pacers with teammate Chris Paul considered questionable because of inflamed rib cartilage suffered in the third quarter against Portland.
“Whenever Chris is out, Blake and the point guard basically do the ballhandling,” Rivers said. “It’s just nice when you have a guy like Blake that can do stuff like that.”
There’s one area George and Griffin each excel in that they would probably rather lag behind the rest of the league: technical fouls. Griffin received his NBA-leading sixth technical this season Monday when he got into a verbal exchange with Portland’s Gerald Henderson after hitting Henderson in the groin area when Henderson drove to the basket.
George began Tuesday ranked second in the league with five technicals.
The apparent futility of intentionally fouling Clippers center DeAndre Jordan may have been best illustrated in the third quarter Monday. Portland went to the strategy midway through the quarter while trailing by seven points and Jordan missed six consecutive free throws.
The Trail Blazers’ deficit when they stopped fouling Jordan? Seven points.
Portland continually fouled Jordan again in the fourth quarter, sending him to the line a career-high 34 times for the game, and still lost by double figures even though Jordan missed 22 free throws.
“I always keep thinking, it demoralizes the other team, I really do,” Rivers said of the intentionally fouling strategy. “If that’s what you think you have to do to win … I’m not sure how effective” it is.
The Clippers are 4-1 this season in games in which Jordan has taken at least 12 free throws.
CLIPPERS VS. INDIANA PACERS
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. PST.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Pacers 11-5, Clippers 10-8.
Record vs. Pacers (2014-15): 2-0
Update: Indiana has won 11 of 13 games since an 0-3 start, including a 107-103 victory over the Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center that started a four-game trip. The Pacers have improved defensively and are among the NBA’s leaders in midrange jumpers, defying the so-called efficiency experts. “I’m not a fan of analytics,” Pacers forward Paul George said earlier this season.