Blake Griffin was the reason the Clippers led Golden State early and had a chance to win in the end — he was the best player on the floor Tuesday night.
Taking advantage of the face Draymond Green was out (Green give Griffin issues), Griffin dropped 40 points on 16-of-25 shooting, plus had 12 boards. Griffin had 12 of his points in the first quarter, when the Clippers took their lead. His 16 in the third quarter kept the Warriors from running away.
Down the stretch, I wouldn’t say he looked worn down, rather that he was just tired enough that he couldn’t sustain his earlier level of play and no one else on his team stepped up. The Clippers needed this win, and the Warriors got it. But that’s not on Griffin, it’s not even close without him.
Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Golden State exposed Clippers’ defense
If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while…
1) In a game the Clippers needed more they couldn’t hold off Warriors, and it’s not a good sign. The showcase game on Tuesday started out kind of how we expected — the Clippers were playing with the desperation of a team fighting for its playoff seeding, the Warriors (without Draymond Greed) were playing like a team that wrapped up the top seed and really didn’t want to get hurt. The Clippers led by as many as 17 in the second quarter. Los Angeles had won seven in a row, and it looked like it would become eight.
However, the Clippers have a couple troubling flaws, and those were exposed in this game — and they are why the Clippers ended up losing 108-104. First is their often discussed lack of depth — Doc Rivers has to lean heavily on his starters, and they need Jamal Crawford back. You can say “come the playoffs that won’t matter much because of the time off” and you’re right in one sense. But that lack of depth limits the team’s flexibility — Golden State can attack you a lot of ways. The Clippers can’t.
But the bigger issue is this: The Clippers are not a great defensive team. They have been much better during the recent run of wins, but if you look at their last 10 games they are allowing 103,1 points per 100 possessions, 13th in the NBA. They are not in the Top 10 for the season. They are average or a little above. In this game the Warriors had an offensive rating of 111 (points per 100), and while Golden State has one of the top couple offenses in the league — and Klay Thompson went off in the second half — the Clippers could not get needed stops. The Warriors, on the other hand, could — Los Angeles shot 3-of-13 in the fourth quarter. If the Clippers get the Spurs in the first round, a real possibility, the depth and defense could be big trouble.
2) Are you going to guard Stephen Curry? Good luck. He’s a walking video game. Chris Paul is the best defensive point guard in the NBA and CP3 got dropped.
3) Blake Griffin had a monster game for Clippers. Blake Griffin could win an MVP one year, he is that good, that complete. Tuesday night he dropped 40 points on 16-of-25 shooting, plus had 12 boards. The Warriors were without Draymond Green, who usually gives Griffin trouble, and Griffin took advantage of the space.
4) We may have to watch the Nets in the playoffs. Lord help us all. The Nets have won four in a row, eight of 10, and now have moved back into the eight seed in the East. Tuesday night Brook Lopez went off for 24 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds, to help the Nets hold on for a 111-106 win over Indiana. The Nets led by 17 early in the second quarter, gave it all back, and had to scrap for the victory. Joe Johnson made key plays in the fourth quarter when they needed it. The Nets look like a team that will make the postseason. Somehow.
5) Kawhi Leonard is a stud, and the Spurs are rolling. It’s not so much that San Antonio flipped the switch as they just got healthy, but they look like the Spurs everyone should fear again. They manhandled Miami 91-75, and Leonard had 22 points on 13 shots, plus nine boards and a few assists. But what he really did is lock down the red-hot Dwyane Wade, who shot just 6-of-20 on the night. Fear this team come the playoffs.
Stephen Curry drops Chris Paul with behind-the-back move (VIDEO)
Chris Paul is the best defensive point guard in the NBA.
Stephen Curry just dropped him to the ground, then drained the shot.
That is as good a move as we’ve seen all season. Curry makes plays, but he does it with an entertaining flair — he’s maybe the second most popular player in the NBA right now for a reason. And when he starts making plays like this on the big stage of the playoffs, that popularity is only going to grow.
You can make a good case for Anthony Davis to be the MVP — he’s scoring 24.7 points a game on 54 percent shooting, he’s pulling down 10.4 rebounds a game and blocking 2.9 shots a night. His PER of 31.1 this season would be not only the best in the NBA this season but in the top 10 all time (with Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan).
But he’s not going to win it, not on a Pelicans team that will miss the playoffs. He should be on voter’s five-deep ballots, but he’s not going to win it.
Who should? If you ask Davis, he says James Harden.
“It’s tough. A lot of guys are playing out of their mind. James Harden, Russ (Westbrook), Steph (Curry), LeBron (James)…
“(Harden is) out of his mind. He’s definitely playing out of his mind. We talk about this on my team every day. It’s like every day. I think with him not having Dwight [Howard] for as much as he did, and he still competed and is still winning games for them, it’s unreal.”
Harden and Stephen Curry seem to be the frontrunners right now. Russell Westbrook and LeBron James seem just half a step back as momentum builds for the vote. Davis is on the outside looking in, Chris Paul has people making his case — and he’s been making it on the court lately — but he seems to be coming from too far behind in most voters’ eyes.
None of that is fair; any one of those guys could claim legitimate claim to the crown. But the smart money is on Curry.
Depends on what day you ask me.
Kevin Durant posts picture from hospital bed, thanks fans, “NBA brothers”
Durant is expected to be out about six months, which would have him back in time for training camp and next season. That would be his contract year, he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016 (but you knew that already).