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Blake Griffin's game continues to evolve

LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin knows what his critics think about his game and he doesn't really care.

"I hear things like all I do is dunk," Griffin said. "I'm working on my overall game and working on small things to help our team and trying to play better defense and all that. As long as we're doing things like that who cares what people say?"

Those who still think all Griffin does is dunk, probably haven't watched him very much this season. After working with shooting coach Bob Thate this offseason, Griffin has improved his free-throw shooting and started to develop a mid-range game that was nonexistent in the past.

Griffin is making 65.1 percent of his free throws this season, a career-best, and a marketed improvement over last season when he shot a career-worst 52.1 percent for the Los Angeles Clippers. Last season, Griffin was actually hoping not to get fouled at times because he dreaded going to the line so much because of his struggles.

"When you go to the free-throw line and you miss free throws, you don't want to put your team in that position where you're supposed to be getting two points and you're going to the line and you feel like you're letting your team down," Griffin said. "There were times I felt like that. I look forward to going to the line now. It takes time but I feel much more confident about it. I feel that my shot is there and I just have to keep working on it."

When Griffin goes to the line now, he is thinking about his new form, which he works on every day with Thate, and being consistent and not simply hoping for his shots to go in.

"Now I'm focused on the mechanics and specific things I've worked on with Coach Thate," Griffin said. "I'm not going up there and thinking, 'Don't miss this,' which is never good."

The Clippers as a team have made 78.8 percent of their free throws this season, which ranks seventh-best in the NBA, and certainly an improvement from last season when the Clippers were the second-worst free-throw shooting team in the league, making only 68 percent of their attempts.

Griffin has also worked on his outside shooting, and knowing where his sweet spots on the court are. According to HoopData.com, he is hitting 48.4 percent of his shoots from 3-9 feet and 41 percent from 16-23 feet, both career highs. He has hardly shot from 10-15 feet, which statistically provided his worst shot locations his first two seasons.

Another positive factor this season for Griffin is having a second unit that allows him and other starters to rest late in games and not play as many minutes as in the past. Griffin is only averaging 31.8 minutes per game this season after averaging 36.2 last season and 38.0 minutes his rookie season. The reduced minutes will not only pay dividends in the future for Griffin, who is averaging 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, but has so far increased his energy productivity in other areas. Griffin is currently averaging a career-high 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals.

"Coming off a back-to-back or whatever it is, there were definitely games last year where we were playing 38-40 minutes and then you've got to turn around and play another 36-38 minutes again," Griffin said. "It wears on you and it wears on you down the stretch of the season, so I'm interested to see how it is come February and March, not having played as many minutes throughout the season."