Coach Doc Rivers on Wednesday night was asked about the MVP race. His reply was only partially surprising.
“I think (Kevin) Durant’s had the best year,” Rivers said of the Oklahoma City star. “I still think LeBron (James) is the best player in the NBA, but I think Durant has had an MVP year. I really believe that. I don’t know who has had a better year. And I honestly think Blake would be right behind him, in my opinion, but I don’t think I have a vote.”
Blake Griffin could finish third in the voting, but Durant and James figure to be first and second one way or the other.
Blake Griffin is having the best season of his career overall, and that has not gone unnoticed by Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks, who could not say enough about Griffin prior to Wednesday night’s game between the Clippers and Thunder won by the Thunder 107-101.
“Oh, he’s developed every year,” Brooks said. “It’s amazing that he continues to develop at the high level he’s played at the last couple of years. He’s gotten better this year, scoring 24, 25 points a game, and 10 rebounds. His outside shot has improved, his free throws have improved, his playmaking has improved. He’s just a great player, he’s going to go down as one of the best power forwards in the game the way he plays. He plays hard, he gets rebounds, he defends.”
Griffin is averaging a career-high 24.1 points. He’s averaging 9.6 rebounds. His best in that department was 12.1 in his rookie season in 2010-11, but back then DeAndre Jordan was not averaging nearly 14 rebounds like he is now, so he has taken some of those away from Griffin. Griffin is also shooting 71 percent from the free-throw line, a career-best.
Coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the Clippers must be stoked about how well J.J. Redick is looking. After not having played for two months, he scored 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting in 24 minutes in his second game back. A bulging disc in Redick’s back has been the issue, but he did not look like someone with back issues Sunday. The Clippers really need him healthy for the playoffs.
- As good as that news is, there was still no Jamal Crawford, out for the fourth consecutive game because of an ongoing calf injury. Rivers told reporters before the game it would be a bummer if Crawford could not play again until the playoffs. But it’s looking like that is a real possibility.
- How about that game by Chris Paul. He scored 23 points and doled out six assists, which is actually lower than his average. But he made 8 of 10 from the field, including all four of his attempts from 3-point range.
- Blake Griffin had a fine game with 23 points on 7 of 14 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Interestingly, only one of his seven baskets came from any kind of distance, where most of misses came from. He hit one outside jumper and that was it. After missing three in a row at one juncture, his body language displayed a bit of frustration. But, hey, the good ones still find a way to have good games, which is what Griffin did.
- With this victory, by the end of Sunday night the Clippers had crawled to within a game of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings because of the Thunder’s loss to Phoenix. The Clippers (55-23) and OKC (55-21) square off Wednesday at staples Center. The Clippers have four games left, the Thunder six.
- Not to worry, Clippers fans, the law of averages says they absolutely must lose a game now and then. The Clippers had won 17 of their past 19 games, some in dramatic fashion. They can’t do it every night. Doesn’t work that way. Coach Doc Rivers said he wasn’t worried about it, and neither should the fans be concerned over one home loss. At 31-6, they still have one of the best home records in the league. That said, down 12 with three minutes left, the Clippers scared the heck out of Dallas by getting within two points with more than a minute left before the Mavericks escaped with the win.
- It was good to see guard J.J. Redick back playing exactly two months since he had last played Feb. 3, no thanks to a bulging disc in his back. Rivers said before the game he’d play Redick about 20 minutes or so, and Redick played 24 minutes and scored 12 points. He made just 3 of 10 from the field, but that’s to be expected after so much time off. He appeared healthy, which is the best thing of all.
- Blake Griffin has become a terrific passer. He had 11 assists in the game, a number more expected of Chris Paul, who had nine. The recipient of some of Griffin’s assists was DeAndre Jordan, who said thank you very much and slammed a few home.
- It’s a bummer that Jamal Crawford missed his third consecutive game because of that pesky injured calf. He was seen before the game and though he wasn’t noticeably limping, he didn’t seem to be walking with confidence, either. The Clippers will really need him for the playoffs because you don’t just replace 18.6 points per game, Crawford’s average.
- The worst thing a coach can do is play the diplomat after a loss because that doesn’t help his players a bit. Rivers said in the post-game news conference that his team played poorly on defense. And he’s right. There were way too many open looks, thus the Mavericks’ 48.3 percentage (14 of 29) from 3-point range. Right there is where the game was decided. The Clippers made just 6 of 27 from beyond the arc for 22.7 percent.
Next up, the Lakers on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
- First and foremost, the Clippers clinched their second consecutive Pacific Division title with this 112-108 victory. Sure, they want much more, but this is still very cool. At 54-22, they are 34 games over .500 and have won 17 of their past 19 games and went 4-1 on this just-concluded road trip ahead of Thursday’s game against Dallas at Staples Center.
- It’s good to see Jared Dudley contributing the way he is right now because strong benches are needed for long playoff runs. He scored 16 points while spelling an ailing Blake Griffin on Monday in a win at Minnesota. With Griffin back, Dudley played 24 minutes off the bench Wednesday and scored 12 points and made all six of his free throws, including the two that basically sealed the Suns’ fate. These back-to-back double-digit games are Dudley’s first since he scored 10 points Jan. 15 against Dallas.
- Chris Paul is Mr. Clutch. His 30-plus foot 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire with 1:48 to play put the Clippers up 108-106, a lead they did not relinquish. Paul had 20 points and nine assists. He did not have a good shooting night – going 6-for-17 from the field – but he came through at the most important time. Like superstars do. Oh, he was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Not too shabby at all.
- As for Griffin, you could tell at times that his back was bothering him. Kudos to him for working through it. Sometimes that’s the best thing for a bad back. He played 34 minutes and after a slow start shooting, he ended up going 7 of 15 from the field and he made 9 of 10 free throws for 23 points. He had six rebounds – low for him – and three assists.
- Finally, and most importantly, the Clippers once again showed they are a team that has that proverbial “Ninth-inning magic.” They were down by 17 points in the third quarter after having trailed by just two points (62-60) at halftime. They were on the road, playing against a Phoenix team fighting for its playoff life. And they come back and took the Suns’ heart right away from them. Victories like these are the kind of which championships are made.
It was a mixed bag for Blake Griffin in the first half Wednesday night at Phoenix. He scored nine points, but made just 1 of 5 from the field; he was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in 16 minutes. He also had four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
The Clippers trailed 62-60 at the break.
Griffin missed Monday’s game at Minnesota after playing just six minutes in Saturday’s game at Houston because of back spasms. He had been a game-time decision Wednesday.
The question as to whether Blake Griffin would play Wednesday night at Phoenix has been answered. Griffin started and played nine minutes in the first quarter, during which he scored five points – all on free throws – with one rebound and one steal. He missed both of his field goal attempts. Griffin missed Monday’s game at Minnesota with back spasms that limited him to six minutes Saturday at Houston.
The Clippers led 30-25 after one quarter, thanks to Chris Paul, who made a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left and a subsequent free throw for a four-point play. Oh, and DeAndre Jordan had seven rebounds in the quarter. That’s a pace for 28.
Blake Griffin will be a game-time decision when the Clippers play at Phoenix on Wednesday night in the final game of a five-game road trip, ESPN.com has reported.
Griffin came out early in this past Saturday’s game at Houston with back spasms. He then missed Monday’s game at Minnesota. It was the first game Griffin has missed this season.
Coach Doc Rivers told ESPN.com at Wednesday’s shoot-around that Griffin “may play tonight. I’m not sure.”
Also, sixth man Jamal Crawford is expected to miss his second consecutive game with a sore left Achilles, the ESPN.com report said. He recently missed eight of nine games with a left calf injury.
- Look for the Goran Dragic-led Suns to give an inspiring effort. As of right now they are tied with Memphis for the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings. Ninth-place Dallas is only a half-game behind those two. Phoenix and Memphis are both 44-30 and have eight games left each. Dallas is 44-31 with seven games remaining.
- Look for Chris Paul to continue his terrific play. The Clippers are 3-1 on this road trip. In the game they lost – March 26 at New Orleans – Paul was 0 of 12 from the field and scored just two points. In successive victories over Dallas, Houston and Minnesota, he has scored 31, 30 and 22 points with 30 assists.
- Expect another heavy rebounding night from DeAndre Jordan, who seems to be getting stronger and even more dynamic as the regular season nears an end. Not only is he leading the NBA in rebounding with a 13.9 average, check this out: he has 67 rebounds on the road trip. That’s a 16.7 average. He had 24 Monday at Minnesota.
- If Blake Griffin is out again because of his back, expect Jared Dudley to again be a capable replacement. Keep in mind that even though he did not play Monday, Griffin did dress, meaning he wasn’t that far from being able to go. If Jamal Crawford (calf) also misses his second consecutive game, that could be a lot to deal with against a team fighting for it’s playoff life.
- If Griffin and Crawford play and are at least close to being reasonably healthy, the Clippers win this game going away because they are rolling right now. Even without those two they could win because along with Paul and Jordan, Matt Barnes and Darren Collison have been heavy contributors.
- Prior to Monday’s victory at Minnesota, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin were first and fourth in the league in dunks. Jordan had 218, Griffin 158 (Griffin did not play against the T’Wolves because of back spasms).
- The Clippers have sold out 130 consecutive home games, sixth best in the league. The Mavericks lead the way with 565 and the Miami Heat are second with 182. These numbers include regular-season and playoff games. The Clippers return home Thursday to take on the Mavericks.
- And this, from ESPN.com: At 53-22, the Clippers are more than 30 games over .500 for the first time in the 44-year history of the franchise.