Blake Griffin smiled and looked down at the final box score in front of him when he was told his total from the free throw line after Monday night's win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Griffin made 11 of his 15 free throws against the San Antonio Spurs, hitting 9 of his first 10 attempts. It was just the 11th time in his career, and second in the last two seasons, he has attempted at least 15 foul shots in a game.
"It's something I've been working on," Griffin said. "It's a confidence thing for me, going up there and feeling like you're going to hit every single one and not being worried about getting fouled at any point in the game. I think that's the difference for me this year as opposed to the past."
Griffin is a career 61.7 percent foul shooter but has made 51 of 69 attempts (73.9 percent) in the month of December and is finally showing signs of becoming a consistent free-throw shooter. It's an improvement that has allowed him to be more physical in the paint and has made defenders more cautious when thinking about fouling him and sending him to the line.
"I feel like being in the paint and really attacking you almost get fouled 90 percent of the time," Griffin said. "So I'm not worried about going to the free throw line and really making them pay and think twice about taking a foul here or there. It allows the game to be less slow and physical."
Griffin's improved free throw shooting is just one of several numbers the Clippers are happy about as they move into the second quarter of the season.
11-3: While teams like Portland (11-0), Oklahoma City (6-0) and San Antonio (9-1) are getting fat off playing dreadful teams in the Eastern Conference, the Clippers are just 6-6 against the East. What has gone unnoticed during their struggles against East teams is that the Clippers are the best team in the West in conference play, owning an 11-3 record. It's their losses to inferior East teams that have them sitting at 17-9 and in fourth place in the West at the moment.
12: DeAndre Jordan has recorded at least 12 rebounds in a game 17 times this season, which is the second best total in the NBA behind Kevin Love, who has 19. Jordan has had 16 or more rebounds six times this season, including a season-high 21 on Dec. 9. In his previous five NBA seasons Jordan had just seven games with at least 16 rebounds and never did so more than three times in a single season. Jordan is third in the NBA in rebounds (12.7 per game) behind Love and Dwight Howard and he is second in the league with 105 offensive rebounds this season.
13: Doc Rivers has been preaching the importance of defense since he arrived in Los Angeles and after a rough start to the season, the Clippers are starting to develop a defensive identity. Through 26 games this season, the Clippers rank seventh in defensive efficiency, 13th in opponent points per game and 12th in opponent field goal percentage. Even more impressively, since Nov. 19 they have been in the top five of all three key defensive categories. They rank first in defensive efficiency (95.9), fourth in opponent points per game (93.2) and fifth in opponent field goal percentage (42.9 percent).
36: Chris Paul and Griffin are averaging a double-double this season and only three times this season have both players finished the game without recording a double-double. Coincidentally, all three games were victories, against Memphis, Boston and San Antonio. Paul and Griffin currently lead the NBA in double-doubles by a tandem with 36 combined.
104: The Clippers' offense has slipped some since opening the season as the highest scoring team in the league but they are still in the top five in points per game, averaging 104.1 points through 26 games. That number has also become the Clippers' magic number for a win. The Clippers are 11-0 this season when scoring at least 104 points. They're just 6-9 in overall games when they fail to at least reach that number.
298: Griffin has scored 298 points in the paint this season, which is fourth in the NBA (LeBron James is first). Griffin is also the only player in the NBA this season to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and shoot at least 50 percent from the field. Through three NBA seasons, Griffin is averaging 20.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. He is only the second player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists while also shooting 50 percent or greater in their first three seasons combined. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only other player to do so.
Report: Numbers showing Clippers' improvement
Arash Markazi of ESPN has a nice article showing how the Clippers are improving.
By Jorge Barake