Oh me, oh my! Frankly, this was Blake Griffin's premiere offensive performance of the season. Not only did he put up his season high, but he finally showed his full offensive repertoire. Step-backs, pull-ups, hook shots and up-and-unders were just a few of his patented moves. For the Clippers to advance in the playoffs, they'll need repeat performances.
While Griffin will get all the headlines, Chris Paul was almost as impressive Tuesday night. He looked for his shot against inferior defenders, got to the charity stripe and managed the fourth quarter brilliantly. Unfortunately, no other Clipper -- besides Griffin -- helped Paul out offensively, and the Hawks' attack was too much to stop. At this point, what more could you ask for from Paul?
Caron Butler was the third-best Clipper Tuesday night, but that's not saying much. If he, or any other Clipper, had just had an average performance, the Clippers would have won. In his defense, Butler managed to grab nearly double-digit boards, and temporarily alleviate Paul and Griffin's responsibilities by nailing a few key jumpers. His defense, or lack thereof, on Joe Johnson was putrid, though.
Barring some unforeseen change, the Clippers are facing the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. Simply put, Memphis' defense will exploit the Clippers if they do not have a balanced offensive attack. Tuesday night's loss proved the Clippers can't win if only Paul and Griffin are clicking offensively. If the Grizzlies mimic the Hawks' game plan and let only L.A.'s dynamic duo get theirs, it could spell trouble.
Joe Johnson's 31-foot bank-in 3-pointer with 37 seconds summed up the game: Any time the Clippers made a run, the Hawks had an emphatic answer. From the second quarter on, the Hawks controlled the game. Using their perimeter attack to spread the Clippers thin, the Hawks exploited their matchup advantages, shot lights out, and forced Paul and Griffin to try to beat them themselves.