Blake Griffin agrees with CP3: He needs to step up this year

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Chris Paul was pretty blunt about it — he thinks the Clippers can go as far as Blake Griffin takes them.

That’s a lot of weight on Griffin’s shoulders, but he told Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com that Paul was right.

“[Paul] has a huge role on this team,” Griffin said Thursday in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He’s been the guy who has closed out a lot of games late for us.

“But in my mind, this is the year I need to step into that role and really help him shoulder that load. I’ll be right there with him at the end of games, being the guy that he can always count on.”

Hitting more than 66 percent of his free throws will help with that.

Griffin has critics who say all he can do is dunk, but they miss the point. First off, the guy is 24 and his game is still evolving and improving. Next, the dunk is the most efficient shot in basketball and if you can get it you should take it — and Griffin can get it. That is a great skill that is more than highlights, it’s sure points. Critics also miss that he has other parts of his game: Improved post moves, good passing out of the post, and his handles are much better when he faces up.

As for the midrange jumper, it’s improved but still needs work. Get him on his more comfortable left side of the court and he hit 39 percent from the midrange last season — not great but improved and good enough you need to respect the shot. Griffin knows what he needs to work on. (The right side and the rest of the midrange he struggled with last year.)

Griffin said he knows what he needs to work on.

“To be honest, I’m more excited about this upcoming season than I’ve ever been,” Griffin said. “My workouts with [shooting coach] Bob Thate and our coaches have been geared around figuring out how I’m going to be used this season.

“I’m doing a lot of stuff at the elbow, a lot of shooting. One of the things [new coach Doc Rivers] said to me was, ‘I don’t want you to be afraid to go 0-for-15.’ In other words, just have the mindset of a shooter. And with the work I’ve done this summer, I’m starting to get that confidence, and think like a shooter.”

If Griffin takes a step forward, it’s that much better for the Clippers. With the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley (two good three point shooters) the Clippers likely will have a top three NBA offense next season (if not the best). Griffin will be part of that.

But that’s not the side of the court that will determine how far they go. Defense will be. Griffin needs to show improved rotations on that end, as to a lot of Clippers in Doc Rivers’ new (to the Clippers) system.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.