Grif­fin a triple threat to Spurs

Power for­ward is lead­ing the Clip­pers in re­bounds and as­sists

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ben Bolch

The NBA’s lead­ing re­bounder shuf­fled in and out of the game be­cause of his in­abil­ity to make free throws.

The league’s leader in as­sists had to go to the bench for a brief stretch in the fourth quar­ter af­ter pick­ing up his fifth foul.

The ab­sences of De­An­dre Jor­dan and Chris Paul weren’t as crip­pling as they might have been in Game 4 of the Clip­pers’ firstround play­off se­ries Sun­day be­cause of the pres­ence of Blake Grif­fin.

Grif­fin got the re­bounds Jor­dan usu­ally snagged and de­liv­ered the passes Paul usu­ally made, the All-Star power for­ward help­ing his team tie a best-of-seven se­ries against the San An­to­nio Spurs at two games apiece. The se­ries re­sumes with Game 5 on Tues­day night at

Sta­ples Cen­ter.

Grif­fin col­lected 19 re­bounds and seven as­sists Sun­day to go with his 20 points while play­ing the en­tire sec­ond half of the Clip­pers’ 114-105 victory.

He has be­come the ul­ti­mate triple threat in the play­offs, lead­ing the Clip­pers in re­bounds (13.3 per game) and as­sists (7.3) while rank­ing sec­ond on the team in points (22.3) be­hind only Paul (23.5).

“Blake has re­ally taken the lead on both ends of the floor now,” Clip­pers for­ward Matt Barnes said Mon­day. “Re­ally it’s a com­plete game of of­fense, whether it’s pick­ing and pop­ping, at­tack­ing the bas­ket, mak­ing shots or mak­ing plays for oth­ers, which is huge.”

The Clip­pers have needed Grif­fin’s all-around pro­duc­tion be­cause of a spotty bench and a dropoff in play from Barnes, who is av­er­ag­ing only 5.3 points in the se­ries and sus­tained a strained right shoul­der in Game 4. Barnes had the shoul­der heav­ily wrapped when he spoke with re­porters but is ex­pected to play Tues­day.

Clip­pers Coach Doc Rivers said Grif­fin re­sponded to his chal­lenge to play­ers to con­trib­ute be­yond their usual roles, a ne­ces­sity in a se­ries that has as­sumed a Fi­nals-like in­ten­sity.

“Blake de­cided, well, I’m go­ing to help the team by get­ting [19] re­bounds,” Rivers said.

Grif­fin said his pri­or­i­ties have been de­fense and re­bound­ing at a time when his team needs as­sis­tance in both ar­eas against the de­fend­ing NBA cham­pi­ons. Grif­fin has also led the Clip­pers in one play­off cat­e­gory they wouldn’t mind him lag­ging in a bit: min­utes played.

Grif­fin has av­er­aged a se­ries-high 41.3 min­utes per game af­ter play­ing nearly 43 min­utes in Game 4 but said he was “feel­ing fine min­utes wise.” Rivers said he had in­structed his play­ers to call a time­out if they were tired.

“You don’t even have to ask me,” Rivers said, “just call a time­out be­cause I would rather have a time­out wasted than our pace wasted.”

The Clip­pers largely main­tained the pace they wanted Sun­day, even when they were run­ning their half­court of­fense. It was all part of play­ing with the sense of ur­gency that had been miss­ing in their 27-point loss in Game 3.

“We shouldn’t have had to make that a point af­ter Game 3,” Grif­fin said. “But we did, and it was great how we re­sponded.”

Rivers said the Clip­pers and Spurs are so evenly matched that the se­ries could be de­cided by ex­e­cu­tion. That was some­thing that eluded Grif­fin in the fi­nal sec­onds of Game 2, when he twice drib­bled be­tween his legs and lost the ball on a cru­cial turnover with the Clip­pers lead­ing by two points.

The Spurs tied the score and went on to win in over­time.

Grif­fin and his team­mates showed re­solve in shrug­ging off back-to-back de­feats in Game 4, though they would pre­fer not to be put in a des­per­ate po­si­tion again.

“I think through some tri­als and when your back’s against the wall, you do find out a lit­tle bit about who you are,” Grif­fin said. “But you can also show that with how you han­dle suc­cess as well. We’d much rather not have to deal with those tri­als, but I do think it does show you a lit­tle bit about your­self when you do han­dle that.”

Larry W. Smith Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

BLAKE GRIF­FIN re­sponded to coach’s chal­lenge to play­ers to con­trib­ute be­yond their usual roles.

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