Blake Griffin’s 26 points, strong fourth quarter help keep Clippers alive (VIDEO)

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It had been one of the key stats from Games 1-5 of the first round slugfest between the Clippers and Spurs: Blake Griffin was 4-of-21 in the fourth quarter of games. He had been wearing down, his legs weren’t there, and he was 1-of-9 on jumpers because of it.

Thursday night in Game 6, he was 3-of-3 in the fourth quarter and had a monster second half with 18 points. It’s one of the principal reasons there will be a Game 7 Saturday at Staples.

If he has another game like that, the odds the Clippers move on go way up.

Big second half from Chris Paul powers Clippers to win, forces Game 7 vs. Spurs


This series had to have a Game 7.

It’s been too good not to — two of the three best teams in the NBA right now (sorry Cleveland, Houston) forced to face off in the first round when this could have been a conference finals.

Game 6 lived up to the hype. In a series where Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had often struggled late in games, they flipped the script Thursday night. Paul had 15 points and seven assists in the second half, while Griffin added 18 and had a key block on Tim Duncan with 5:50 left in the game.

“I thought Chris and Blake took the game over. We didn’t stop them, and they were tremendous,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Those two did enough to power the Clippers to a 102-96 win in San Antonio Thursday night. This forces a Game 7 back in Los Angeles Saturday night (8 p.m. Eastern on TNT).

The way this series has gone, that game may be more entertaining than the Mayweather-Pacquiao that follows.

“I’ve been saying this all year, this team is mentally tough,” Doc Rivers said after the win.

“We lost because the Clippers were determined, physical, focused, played harder than we did,” a smoldering Popovich said postgame. “We were soft on loose balls, we’d get a rebound they’d knock it out of our hands, hard time getting open — I thought their physicality in that regard was great. We were just soft. I’m not sure how we stayed in the game to be honest with you.

As you would expect in a closeout game, the Clippers came out with a sense of urgency. Their pressure defense looked quicker than it had all series and forced eight first-quarter Spurs turnovers, which led to easy buckets in transition. Those points plus DeAndre Jordan altering shots inside, and J.J. Redick starting 4-of-5 shooting, made this what should have been a perfect start for the Clippers, who led by as many as seven in the first. But, as it has been all series, the Clipper bench came in and things instantly tightened up. By the end of the first it was 26-26. The Clippers could not create separation.

The second quarter became the Marco Belinelli show for the Spurs as he came in and went 4-of-4 from three, part of a 9-0 run. Then the Spurs went to hack-a-DJ, and it helped open the lead up to 10, although that was more about the Clippers missing 19 three pointers in a row (across two games). However, with the intentional fouling Tim Duncan and Tony Parker picked up their third fouls and went to the bench, the Clippers brought their starters back in, and the Clippers went on an 11-4 run.

The score was 51-51 at the half. Yet the Clippers had to feel fairly good about that considering CP3 was 0-of-7 while as a team they were 1-of-9 from three.

The Clippers came out hitting their shots in the third quarter to take a 10-point lead. Doc Rivers went with his shooters and had his small lineup doing damage, led by CP3 making plays — six games into the series and the Spurs have not come close to solving the Clips double high screen play. Paul had help from  Griffin, who had struggled in the fourth quarter throughout the series was 3-of-3 in the final frame plus had some big defensive plays down the stretch.

Of course, there were close calls late. Jamal Crawford got away with a walk late. Boris Diaw got caught on an offensive shot interference call tipping in a missed shot while it was over the cylinder. A lot of things could have gone another way, befitting this series.

The Spurs got 23 points off the bench from Belinelli — he was 7-of-11 from three on the night and hit a shot in the final minute to keep the Clippers on edge. Borris Diaw added 17 points. Kawhi Leonard had a rough night, shooting 3-of-15 and not being his usual self on defense.

J.J. Redick had 19 points for Los Angeles; Paul had 19 points and 15 assists, Griffin had 26 points.

It was not all good news for the Clippers. Glen Davis had to leave the game — and be wheeled back to the locker room — for what was officially called a sprained ankle but looked to be something worse with a foot he had broken a couple years back.

Game 7 could go either way — four of the six wins in this series have come on the road. All the games save one have been decided late because these are two evenly-matched teams. Two title contenders standing toe-to-toe, trading blows.

This series had to have a Game 7.

Al-Farouq Aminu says he’ll opt out of contract with Mavericks


Al-Farouq Aminu is no fool.

That will take him down the opposite road of fellow-non-fool Chase Budinger, who opted into the final season of his contract.

Unlike Budinger, who’s due $5 million next season, Aminu – a Mavericks forward – is due just his $1,100,602 minimum in his player-option season.

Michael Florek of The Dallas Morning News:

Aminu said on Wednesday that he’d decline his option be a free agent this summer.

“I think it makes the most sense to me,” he said. “You just look for a great fit. This year, I think I found one. Hopefully, I can do the same.”

Is money important?

“I would hope to think so,” Aminu said.

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Aminu outplayed a minimum contract all season, but he really reached another in the playoffs. In Dallas’ loss to the Rockets, he averaged 11.2 points (making 17-of-31 shots, including 7-of-11 3-pointers), 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.6 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game. He also spent significant time guarding James Harden reasonably effectively considering Harden is an MVP candidate.

I doubt Aminu can maintain those numbers – especially the outside shooting – but considering he’s just 24, there’s hope this was a breakout performance rather than an aberration.

At minimum, Aminu should continue to display his defensive versatility. At 6-foot-9, can guard power forwards, small forward and shooting guards. I wouldn’t hesitate to put him on point guards or centers in stretches. That makes him an ideal fit as teams increasingly look to switch on defense.

I expect Aminu to get multiple offers in the mid-level exception range – taxpayer: $3,376,000, non-taxpayer: $5,464,000 – and I’d hardly be surprised if a team went over the top to ensure landing him.

Will it be the Mavericks? They have to figure out Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis, and they have their eyes on bigger fish like DeAndre Jordan and LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m sure Dallas wants to keep Aminu, but he’s the type of player who slips through the cracks. Just look how the Mavericks got him last year.

Nobody’s getting Aminu for the minimum this year, though. He’ll fetch well more than that, which is why opting out was the clear right move.

Report: Blake Griffin got upset with call, spat on court


Doc Rivers got fined for criticizing the officials after the Clippers’ Game 5 loss to the Spurs.

What is the statute of limitations on penalties from that game?

Asking for Blake Griffin.

Bill Simmons Grantland:

I guess you can say “Champion teams don’t do this.” But I don’t think lottery teams do, either.

Seriously, what team does this?

And how did Griffin get away with it?

Clippers fans can (rightly) complain about Chris Paul getting a cheap technical late in the game, but if Simmons description is accurate, the Clippers came out ahead. Griffin definitely deserved a tech for what Simmons described.

At least Ekpe Udoh didn’t have to clean it up this time (as he did for Matt Barnes earlier in the series):

That poor ball boy this time, though.

Not being so gross in Game 6 would be a nice step for the Clippers. More importantly, they need to regroup if they’re going to steal another win in San Antonio.

PBT Extra: Can Blake Griffin’s fourth quarter struggles be blamed on short Clippers’ bench?


This much we know: Blake Griffin is struggling in the fourth quarter against San Antonio in the Clippers’ first round playoff series (currently led by San Antonio 3-2). Griffin was 1-of-9 in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, he is now 4-of-21 in the fourth in this series.

And he looks tired, without spring in his step come the fourth quarter. That’s why he’s 1-of-9 on jump shots in the fourth (and left a key free throw short in Game 5). His legs aren’t under him. (Tim Duncan guarding him in Game 5 didn’t help, either.)

Doc Rivers tried to downplay the bench issue after the game, but Doc the coach needs to tell Doc the GM to improve the bench this offseason.