Kurt Helin

Blake Griffin, Jason Smith
Associated Press

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Blake Griffin can pass the ball, too


Monday night saw a busy slate around the NBA, and you probably didn’t have time to take it all in because you were decorating your Christmas tree. Or watching the Dolphins. Or re-reading Brave New World. Or discussing how Rajon Rondo got off light. Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered, so here are five things to know from an NBA Monday, starting with a note from Dan Feldman, who was at the Clippers’ win over the Pistons in Detroit.

1) Blake Griffin’s passing — not just the 34 points — gets Clippers win. Stan Van Gundy called Blake Griffin “easily” the best-passing true big* in the NBA before last night’s Clippers-Pistons game.

Detroit learned the hard way Van Gundy was right.

Griffin had 34 points and seven assists, including on Clippers’ two biggest baskets, in their 105-103 overtime win.

Down three late in regulation, Griffin drove and kicked to J.J. Redick for the game-tying 3-pointer:

Then — when Andre Drummond made what he called an “instinct” play to double Griffin in the high post, even though Van Gundy emphasized Griffin’s willingness to pass out of double-teams — Griffin found an open Jamal Crawford for the game-winner:

“People look at the power and the speed and the dunks, and they miss the best part of his game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Griffin. “And that’s his passing.”

*The “true big” designation, to Van Gundy, eliminates Warriors power forward Draymond Green from the discussion. Green spends more time on the perimeter and less time with his back to the basket.
—Dan Feldman

2) Just when you think maybe Houston is turning it around… Houston had won 7-of-10 coming into Monday night, but those came against a soft part of the schedule, so one had to wonder if the turnaround was for real. This loss to Denver on the road 114-108 was the kind of sloppy, effortless loss that makes you think the problems are all still there. Houston made runs (they led by 10 at one point) thanks to nailing 18 threes, but their disinterested defense all night led to bigger Denver runs. Ty Lawson pretty much should just have a red cape in his hands to waive like a Matador as ball handlers blow by him. Another sign of Houston’s effort issue is Denver won the rebounding battle 52-26. Dwight Howard wants the ball in the post but can’t do much with it anymore. I could go on but you get the point, Houston still has a lot of questions to answer.

3) Will Barton threw down a big dunk, then later threw a shoe. Denver’s Will Barton has had a big season — he has a PER of 19 while nobody was looking — and he had a big Monday against the Rockets. First, there was this dunk.

Then Barton got a technical foul for throwing Trevor Ariza‘s shoe (I didn’t know this was a technical foul now, Dwyane Wade and Jarrett Jack have done it before without punishment).

4) The Spurs are quietly putting up a Warriors-like point differential. The Spurs crushed the Rudy Gobert-less Jazz 118-81 Monday night, lifting their season point differential to +13.2 per game (how much they outscore opponents by). The Warriors are just 13.1. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN had a great stat about it.

If you use net rating — how much a team outscores opponents by on a points per 100 possessions basis — the Warriors are at 14.8 on the season and the Spurs at 13.9 (stats via NBA.com). Either way, while everyone is rightfully marveling at the Warriors start, the Spurs are quietly just about as good. These are clear and away the two best teams in the NBA right now.

5) Goran Dragic gets elbowed in the face, loses a tooth, gets called for the foul. How exactly is this on Dragic? Al Horford is near the top of the key with the ball, swings his elbows through to create a space and start so he can start his move, and catches Dragic in the face as the guard is just in good defensive position. Dragic dropped to the ground quickly, and later they picked up part of his tooth off the court.

The foul call was on Dragic.

Will Barton throws Trevor Ariza’s shoe, gets technical (VIDEO)


Will Barton had a big night for Denver Monday. We already showed you how he threw down one of the more impressive dunks of the season, going right over Donatas Motiejunas.

Then there was the play above, where midway through the fourth quarter Trevor Ariza‘s shoe came off and as he reached for it Barton threw the shoe across the court.

Barton got called for a technical foul on the play. That was interesting, I guess it was unsportsmanlike, but Dwyane Wade did it to Mike Bibby once, and Jarrett Jack threw Dorell Wright’s shoe and neither of them got a technical. Was there an edict from the league that shoe throwing would now earn a tech?

Also, this fired up the Rockets who wanted to start a fight and then went on a 15-2 run to make it a tight game down the stretch. The Rockets played with passion for some of the first times all night — opponents should take note and not throw their shoes again, let them keep sleepwalking through games.

Denver hung on for the 114-108 win.

Goran Dragic gets elbowed in face, loses tooth, gets called for foul


General rule of thumb: If a guy swings his elbows through, catches you in the face and knocks out a tooth, the foul should not be on you.

Unless you’re Goran Dragic. In the third quarter of the Heat’s eventual win over the Hawks he was up on Al Horford near the top of the key, Horford swung his elbows through to create a little space and start his move going left, but he caught Dragic in the face. Dragic dropped to the ground quickly, and later they picked up part of his tooth off the court.

And the foul was on Dragic.

At least with that new $85 million contract Dragic should be able to afford a quality dentist.

Crawford’s late 3 in overtime lifts Clippers over Pistons

Leave a comment

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Jamal Crawford hit a 3-pointer with 12.4 seconds left in overtime and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Detroit Pistons 105-103 Monday night.

Blake Griffin made a pair of free throws with 38.8 seconds remaining to put the Clippers ahead 102-101. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tied it by going 1 for 2 from the foul line with 30.5 seconds left.

After Crawford’s basket, the Clippers fouled Reggie Jackson with 9.3 seconds left. He made the first shot, missed the second, and teammate Andre Drummond got two chances for a tying tip-in, but missed both.

Jackson missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.

Griffin finished with 34 points for the Clippers, J.J. Redick had 24 and Chris Paul put up 13 points and 12 assists.

Jackson finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Drummond added 20 points and 15 rebounds.

Detroit led 91-89 in the last minute and Jackson added a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game with 33 seconds to go. Crawford hit two free throws, and Redick immediately fouled Drummond.

Drummond, who came into the game shooting 36.6 percent from the foul line, made one for a 94-91 edge with 25.5 seconds left. The strategy worked as Redick hit a 3-pointer with 19.6 seconds left, tying the game.

Jackson ran the clock down, but missed a 15-footer over Griffin at the buzzer.

The Clippers led 73-63 at the end of the third period. Jackson’s 3 gave the Pistons its first lead of the game with 6:42 to play.

Los Angeles missed 10 of its first 12 fourth-quarter shots. Griffin ended the streak with a vicious baseline dunk.

Caldwell-Pope, who played the entire second half and overtime, hit a 3-pointer to put the Pistons up 87-81 with three minutes left.


Clippers: Josh Smith, still reviled in Detroit for his poor tenure with the Pistons, was loudly booed when he entered the game and every time he touched the ball.

Pistons: Coach Stan Van Gundy picked up a rare technical for arguing a first-half call. … Six Pistons had one assist each in the first half while Detroit’s front court went 3 for 17 from the floor.


Denver’s Will Barton throws down fierce dunk on Rockets (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Denver has struggled of late but they came out ready to play against Houston Monday night (and eventually got the win 114-108).

Nothing epitomized that more than Will Barton getting up and throwing it down hard over Donatas Motiejunas.

I knew Barton was athletic, but I didn’t know he had that in him. Barton’s having a good season in Denver, scoring 14.3 points a game with a PER of 19. But you don’t need to tell Houston about that, they saw what he can do first hand.