The Clippers’ series-opening blowout win masked what was a pretty average game from Blake Griffin.
But a lopsided Game 2 result the other way – 112-101 Thunder on Wednesday night in OKC – thrusts Griffin’s sudden struggles to the forefront.
This season, the OKC native elevated his game to new heights, turning from athletic All-Star to polished superstar. He finished third in the MVP voting and entered the playoffs as maybe the biggest reason many consider the Clippers a title contender.
He’s an elite talent with great responsibility. But on Wednesday night, his second straight rough shooting night – this one a lot worse than the first – played a big role in the Clippers loss.
Griffin went 7-of-16 in Game 1. He went 5-of-13 and finished with only 15 points and six rebounds in Game 2.
He averaged 24.1 points and 9.5 rebounds this season.
“Blake missed some great shots early on,” Doc Rivers said. “I think he was 1-for-8 at halftime (actually 2-of-8). I would like six of those back…He missed point-blank looks at the rim, open shots. He’s going to get those shots and he’ll make almost 9 out of 10 most nights. You live with those.”
But the Thunder’s bruising big men deserve some of the credit, as well.
Serge Ibaka got primary responsibility and played him well. By the time the game was out of hand, Griffin was 3-of-11 shooting when guarded by Ibaka.
And when Ibaka needed a quick breather, Steven Adams was there to tap in. The high-energy, frantic and physical rookie came in and threw his body around. He knocked into Griffin on rebounds, tussled with him for loose balls and agitated him on what seemed like every other possession.
It’s what Adams has done all season, but was only magnified because of Griffin’s theatrical style of play, flailing for foul calls and visibly frustrated with Adams’ physicality.
“He’s a physical player,” Rivers said of Adams. “Red Auerbach used to always tell me, ‘You gotta get agitators.’ And he’s one of those for sure. Red truly believed that. He said you gotta have two or three on the team and they have him and Perk.”
Speaking of Kendrick Perkins, the much-maligned big man continues his strong postseason play.
The Thunder’s neutralization of Griffin has been important. But the slowing of DeAndre Jordan has quietly had a big effect. Jordan finished with seven points and eight rebounds in Game 2 after seven and five in the opener, marking the first time this season he has had back-to-back games with single-digit points and assists.
A lot of that is on Perkins, who has bodied up Jordan, pushed him away from the basket and slowed the alley-oop game – Jordan’s biggest weapon.
“I thought Perk had a major, major impact in the win,” Scott Brooks said.
“They played hard and physical,” Rivers said.
“But you gotta do it back and I didn’t think we did it back. I thought we weren’t very physical tonight. Mentally, I didn’t think we were very tough tonight either.”
And that may have been the most obvious in the paint, where, despite an expected disadvantage, the Thunder mauled L.A. and won the battle of the bigs.