It obscured the real development: It was a night when Griffin was required to be the focal point of the offense, and a night when he delivered.
I wrote earlier in the season that there aren’t enough games where you can say the Clippers won because of Griffin, not just with him. In this case, they did win because of Griffin. The fact that they needed all of his 29 points and eight assists to beat the Boston Celtics by only six points is another matter.
They would not have been as dependent on his scoring (and his assists total would have gone up) if Jamal Crawford shot better than 8-for-26 from the field, for example. Or if they had more effectively managed the lead down the stretch. Or if the second unit played better.
Still, the Clippers’ main task is getting through until the All-Star break without Chris Paul and not losing too much ground in the Western Conference standings while he recovers from a separated shoulder. They’re 2-1 in the three games he missed since the injury.
Feel free to prep for Winter Olympics figure skating by deducting points for the two victories coming at home against the Orlando Magic and Celtics, as well as the blowout loss in San Antonio, the one team of the three they could face in the playoffs (as early as the first round if the bottom drops out without Paul).
Griffin was disappointed in some aspects of the game himself. Such is his evolution that he could make 11 free throws and still consider it an off-night at the line for him. It’s because the Celtics made him take 17 attempts and he missed six of them, a percentage of .647 in a season in which he’s shot 70 percent on free throws, including 78 percent since Dec. 14.
Some people are slow to acknowledge that progression. You see plenty of that talk on Twitter, too, that Griffin still can’t shoot -- even though he made a 21-footer for his second basket and drilled a fallaway jumper near the Celtics bench for his final field goal. In between came that throwdown over a cowering Humphries (whom Griffin dismissed with a shove for good measure).
“I can’t wait to go home and watch it on YouTube,” Crawford said.
We’ve seen those before, though. Better, actually. Ask Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins. In other words, about as often as he achieves the statistical accomplishment of having at least six assists in back-to-back games, which he did coming on the heels of the six he had against the Magic on Monday night. It’s happened only two other times in his career.
Doc Rivers said he’s wary of asking players to step outside their normal roles in Paul’s absence, saying he wanted his young forward to “just be Blake. He doesn’t need to change at all.”
But things are different. For one, Rivers played Griffin almost 41 1/2 minutes. And the offense takes on another look without Paul as well.
“The quarterback, when he’s not there, we kind of do more of a spread formation, get the ball to Blake down low,” said Jared Dudley, who scored 18 points.
Griffin does more than just form an effective high-low combo with DeAndre Jordan, something he’d already established. He found a fly-route-running Jordan with a 60-foot outlet pass for a dunk in the first half. And he consistently got the ball to the wings in the half-court offense.
“DJ is diving hard, that creates so much attention,” Griffin said. “You can pick and choose guys on the perimeter.
“It’s our execution offensively without the ball.”
It’s Griffin who’s getting them the rock. And it was Griffin who got the ball repeatedly in the half-court offense, going inside, absorbing the fouls, cashing in often enough at the line to get him to 29 points on only 14 field goal attempts.
All the stuff you won’t be seeing on YouTube.