Clippers’ Blake Griffin makes the most noise in 98-96 victory over Warriors
OAKLAND -- The Clippers walked into an angry beehive, thousands of folks wearing bright yellow T-shirts and surrounding them with a roaring buzz.
The Clippers walked into a building that is adjacent to the home of the Oakland Raiders and feels every bit like a Raiders end zone, the Black Hole, only deeper.
In their first road game of this postseason Thursday night, the Clippers found themselves engulfed by screaming and booing and chanting Oracle Arena fans and a Golden State Warriors team that mirrored every bit of their desperation.
Then, as quick as you can say “Shhhhh,” they Blaked it all out.
His name is Blake Griffin, and if it wasn’t obvious before now, the truth has become as clear as his scowl and as rich as his voice.
He does more than dunk. He splashes, he spins, he fires, he finesses and most of all, as he proved Thursday night, he wins.
On the back of a seemingly unstoppable force who has become as versatile on the court as in his commercials, the Clippers rode Griffin’s 32 points and eight rebounds to take control of this fight with a 98-96 victory and a two-games-to-one series lead.
“I don’t have any words for you when it comes to Blake Griffin,” said teammate Darren Collison.
Well, let’s try.
He scored 10 consecutive points at the start of the second half to give the Clippers a lead they never lost. And no, not a dunk among them. It went bank shot, jump shot, bank jump shot, bank jump shot, layup.
When that lead became tenuous in the final minutes, with the Warriors closing the point gap to one, Griffin took over again, hitting a fall-away jumper with Draymond Green in his face at the shot-clock buzzer with 3:57 left to start a 7-0 run.
Then, when the Warriors pulled back to within three in the final 30 seconds? It was all about Griffin again. This time, holding the ball at the top of the key, he knocked Green to the floor for what appeared to be a charging foul. But Griffin is increasingly becoming the kind of superstar who gets the benefit of these kinds of calls. With the crowd howling in disbelief, Green was called for the foul and Griffin made a free throw to put the Clippers back up by four.
It was Chris Paul who eventually swarmed Curry into a game-ending airball for the victory, and it was DeAndre Jordan whose 22 rebounds and five blocks led a tremendous defensive charge, but this one was all about Griffin.
After some consideration, Collison found those words.
“He’s everything to our team right now,” said Collison. “He’s playing with so much enthusiasm and focus and power and mental toughness.”
Collison shook his head.
“Blake understands he can’t be stopped, and sometimes that’s scary, you know what I mean?” Collison said.
Turns out, Collison had more words than Griffin himself.
“This isn’t anything I want to dwell on,” Griffin said. “This is about the team.”
The team certainly benefited from it.
The victory broke the Clippers five-game losing streak here; it was just their third win in their last 18 games in this place. And it was a statement the Warriors could be remembering all summer.
Without an answer to Griffin in the last two games, and with seemingly not a clue how to navigate a suffocating Clippers perimeter defense, the Warriors seem unlikely to be able to summon three wins in the next five games
The Clippers knew they had completely intimidated both the Warriors and their fans Thursday when Green grabbed Griffin’s neck and knocked him to the ground with 5:41 left in the third quarter and the Clippers leading, 65-50.
It was clearly a flagrant foul of frustration. Yet the frustrated fans could only deride Griffin with chants of “Flop-per, flop-per.”
It is the Warriors and their star Curry , who made only five baskets in a second consecutive struggling effort, who have now clearly flopped.
Mark Jackson, Warriors coach, frowned and added some more words about Griffin.
“He’s playing at a high level right now.... We’re forcing him to be a jump shooter, he’s making jump shots,” Jackson said. “We give him different looks, he’s making some tough shots.”
How intense was Thursday night? The game began with even the ushers getting into the mood as they chest-bumped each other while shouting, “Are you ready?”
Donald Sterling sat courtside wearing black. Barry Bonds showed up wearing a smile. A woman showed up at courtside chiding Griffin for pouring water on a Golden State fans back in Los Angeles — she was wearing an umbrella on her head. Fans wearing black and yellow striped sleeves showed up behind the basket and waved their arms.
The yellow shirts read, “Loud. Proud. Warriors.” The public address announcer shouted, “We bring the fight to the loudest home court in the NBA.”
Thanks to the blustery tones of Blake Griffin, that court cleared late Thursday night as one of the quietest.
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