When the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz last met in late December, Blake Griffin scored a season-high 40 points in his most dominant offensive game of the season. The outing marked the beginning stages of Griffin’s recent evolution into a nightly 30-point threat.
Ever since a breakout performance against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 16, Griffin has averaged 26 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 54.3 percent shooting from the field and 74.2 percent shooting from the free throw line in 24 games -- undoubtedly the best stretch of his career.
Griffin continued his impressive play Saturday night, scoring 25 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists against a depleted Utah front line (Derrick Favors sat out with a hip injury) in the Clippers’ 102-87 win over the lowly Jazz.
There was the usual number of fireworks, highlighted by Griffin reverse dunking a lob from Jamal Crawford and making an and-1 floater from behind the basket that bounced on top of the backboard twice before dropping in. But Griffin had to work harder for his points against a converging defense focused on his every move.
Instead of settling for jumpers or becoming passive like he might have earlier in the season or in years past, Griffin grinded his way to another double-double performance.
How it happened: Despite visibly missing Favors’ presence inside, the Jazz matched an exhausted Clippers squad blow for blow in the first half. Utah held a 21-19 edge at the end of the first quarter and went to the half tied with Los Angeles 42-42.
The Clippers regained their offensive touch in the third -- led by Darren Collison (nine points), Crawford (eight) and Griffin (eight) -- and outscored the Jazz 34-23 to essentially seal the game. The Jazz got within nine points in the fourth before Crawford and Griffin quickly put Utah’s comeback to rest.
What it means: Los Angeles is now 12-4 without Chris Paul this season and has a chance to head into the All-Star break with momentum, as four of their final five games before Feb. 13 -- the first official day of the break -- are at Staples Center.
Hits: Crawford led all scorers with 27 points off the bench.
Hedo Turkoglu had perhaps his best game as a Clipper, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds in 13 minutes.
The Clippers shot 51.4 percent while holding the Jazz to just 35.8 percent shooting.
Misses: J.J. Redick had one of his worst shooting performances of the season, going 1-for-6 from the floor and 0-for-1 from downtown.
Enes Kanter burned the Clippers inside with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
The Clippers shot just 24-of-37 (64.9 percent) from the charity stripe.
Stat of the game: 16.7 percent. That was the Clippers’ 3-point shooting percentage in hitting two of 12 attempts.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Clippers had the third-most efficient offense in the league but ranked just 20th in 3-point percentage. Los Angeles’ offense is predicated on spacing and shooting, so keep an eye on that figure as the season progresses.