This episode of the Film Room should have been out on Friday afternoon, but things got in the way of that being the case. Instead, you’re getting it just several hours prior to tipoff on Saturday evening. Either way, this edition is going to take a look at a little third quarter razzle-dazzle by one Blake Austin Griffin – or, Bad A** Griffin if you so prefer. The game was hanging in the balance prior to this level of domination and it just goes to show you how amazing of a player the power forward can truly be. Prepare to fall in love all over again.
At halftime, the Los Angeles Clippers led the Dallas Mavericks by just 8 points. The team from the Lone Star State had managed to keep the game close to a respectable deficit despite their depleted roster. While they were doing their best to claw into the game even more, one man routinely kept denying them a realistic chance at victory. There aren’t many things Blake Griffin can’t do on a basketball court. What he does better than most anyone else is actually put the ball through the hoop. Points are fun. Hell, Griffin is fun.
We’re going to pick up the action just a few moments after the second half gets underway. Already, the Mavericks had cut the lead to just 5 points and it appeared like the Clippers would be sleepwalking through much of the second half before trying to eke out a win in the closing moments once again. Instead, what we got was Griffin being the unstoppable force of nature that he is. So, without further ado, let’s take a gander at the footage for this Film Room and give all praise to the Oklahoma kid.
This is a pretty long play in terms of time, but it’s one that serves many benefits. The team attempts to run J.J. Redick off of two baseline screens and have him curl to the left elbow for a jumper. It’s a variation of a HORNS set that the team often runs. Griffin sets the screen for Redick and moves up a little bit towards the right elbow. When Redick comes off of the second screen, he has no angle to shoot. Instead, he finds Griffin open at the right elbow because Zaza Pachulia got lost in the defensive spacing. Griffin gets the ball, shoots, and nails a jumper. Just like that, the Clippers see their lead increase.
As you watch this play develop, two things happen that are of note. The first of which is Lance Stephenson and DeAndre Jordan nearly run into each other at the left elbow. As weird as this is, it also screws up the Mavericks. Devin Harris looks confused and doesn’t know what to do. The second is that Stephenson slips to the corner after setting a worthless screen. This is what forced Pachulia to get lost in the spacing. With no one able to choke down on the corner, Pachulia sort of just hovers there because he thinks a pass might be going to Stephenson. When the pass goes to Griffin, Pachulia is too far away to do anything about it. It’s something that pays off for the Clippers.
A couple minutes later, the team still is clinging to a 5 point lead and come down the court in a semi-transition opportunity. It forces Dallas to get setup without knowing where to be. As Chris Paul flies down the court, he runs into a 1-5 pick-and-roll with DeAndre Jordan. On the backside of the play, Griffin is sort of just hovering the right elbow in case Paul turns down the Jordan screen for a different one. However, that’s not all he’s doing. When Paul comes off the screen and Jordan rolls, Dirk Nowitzki – Griffin’s primary defender – starts to move with Jordan here. This allows Griffin a ton of space. Paul recognizes this and flips a right-handed pass into Griffin’s shooting pocket. Griffin sizes Nowitzki up for a brief moment, and then knocks down the shot.
This is another case of the team having hard-to-guard players. Jordan’s screen-and-roll game is so deadly and scary that it forces Dallas to rethink how they’re going to even exist. Nowitzki looks clueless as to what to do and that hesitation is all the Clippers needed. It was a brief moment of weakness that was exploited by a superior offense. When Griffin’s jumper is going like this, there’s really not anything a defense in the league can do to stop him. You don’t want to close out on him because he’ll just drive right by you, but you also don’t want the guy taking wide open shots that he’s knocking down. It’s death by massive gashes rather than papercuts.
This is one of the plays the Clippers run a lot of with their base personnel. Chris Paul probe dribbles until a suitable screen is set by Griffin just below the arc. Paul then threads the needle with a pocket pass to a rolling Griffin. Here, Dallas does a great job of crashing down to stop the Griffin roll to the rim. Except, that’s also a downfall. You see, when Griffin rolls to the rim, Devin Harris leaves Lance Stephenson wide open in the corner so that he can help stop Griffin’s rim run. While Stephenson struggles to shoot at times, it’s still a massively high-quality look for an average shooter. Shots like these went to Matt Barnes the last two years. They’re going to Stephenson now. Stephenson misses, but it’s still a super quality look.
Despite the miss off of one his passes, Griffin does the smart thing here. Instead of just continuing to drive and probably drawing an offensive foul, Blake makes the intelligent pass to the corner for a wide open three. There’s nothing wrong with missing a shot like this. Theoretically, these are misses you can live with because of how uncontested they are. Would a better shooter have knocked this one down? No one knows. The process matters a lot in basketball and, no matter what the result of this play says, the process was off the charts.
Nothing elaborate here from Griffin. This is just a good ol’ fashioned hustle play and putback jam. Everything before this play is pretty gorgeous, though. The Clippers run Redick off of a pindown screen that is designed to get him either an open three from the wing or a pull-up jumper in the mid-range. Due to the lack of true contact made on the screen, Redick’s defender never gets lost. This forces Redick to put the ball on the floor and make a quick pass to Jordan, who then makes one pass to his left to Stephenson in the left corner. Stephenson gets another wide open corner three, but he misses this one, too. From there, it’s all Griffin. He spots no one boxing out and makes a rim run that culminates in a thunderous dunk.
Plays like these are lovely because it shows how huge one play can ultimately be for a team. The Clippers are only up by 5 points here. Had Griffin not followed up the Stephenson miss with this putback dunk, then Dallas has a chance to cut this lead to either 2 or 3 points. That’s a huge swing in a game. We hear it all the time from Mike Smith and Ralph Lawler; sometimes a dunk is worth more than just a couple points. In this instance, it was. It showed that if the star of the team was going to keep playing hard then everyone else had better do the same.
When we talk a two-man game, usually it’s something far more elaborate than what happens here. Lance Stephenson gets the ball in transition and attempts to push it up the floor. Blake Griffin recognizes that Lance might need help, so he runs up and sets two screens that do enough of a job on Devin Harris. When Stephenson cuts back to his left after the second screen, he passes to Griffin and Blake is left open enough by Zaza Pachulia. Griffin turns, rises, and fires. Two more points as the ball hits the bottom of the net.
Years ago, this is a play where Griffin probably shot fakes and tries to bully Pachulia to the rim. Instead, we get to see the refinement of his game. This is what years and years of hardwork and dedication can do. It’s not just the fact that he makes the shot. It’s also the confidence that he displays in even attempting it in the first place. He’s calm, cool, collected, and confident. Everything happens in one fluid motion for him. He gets the ball and goes right up with the shot. No wasted motion, no wasted anything. Love it.
On this play here, there’s a lot going on. Griffin gets the ball in transition and is sort of wild so he passes back out to Paul at the top of the arc. From there, the two initiate a pick-and-roll with the help of DeAndre Jordan. Paul fires a pass back to Griffin at the left elbow and, rather than taking the semi-open jumper due to Pachulia’s quick contest, Griffin takes one power dribble before sizing up the defense. Griffin pivots and passes off to Stephenson on the wing. Griffin then walks up and sets a screen on Harris as he gives Lance the sign to move to the top of the arc. Stephenson adheres to Griffin’s instructions, comes off of Griffin’s screen, and knocks down a three-point shot to give the team a double-digit lead.
Yet again, we get to see Griffin’s calmness and headiness on display. On the initial part of this, Griffin holds the ball up rather than driving wildly. Couple years ago, this is a turnover or offensive foul. After kicking it out to Paul, he directs Chris where to go. After getting the ball back, Griffin then is smart enough to not force a heavily contested shot. He probes and finds the open man. And then, he tells the open man where to go for a wide open shot. Perhaps he was just in the zone and knew where everyone should be. Still, this is a play that shows you Griffin’s maturity on the offensive end and displays his knowledge of where guys should be, and what shots they should be shooting.
How do you continue to make the opposition pay? Run more pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action. Here, we get the pop instead of the roll. Paul comes off of a Griffin screen that rubs Raymond Felton out of the play. As Paul clears Griffin, Charlie Villanueva has to step out and deny any action by the ball-handler. Felton’s recovery is slow, plodding, and lazy. It allows Paul to pinpoint a pocket pass to Griffin. The pass hits Griffin and Blake rises up for a jumper before Villanueva can even recover back. Ball goes in, points go on the board, and the Mavericks are left wondering if there’s anything they can do to stop this blitzkrieg.
With the team leading by double-digits now, Paul enters the frontcourt and starts to amaze with his ball-handling ability. Griffin runs up to set Paul a double-sided screen. Chris runs through one side and then comes back around the other in an effort to lose Felton. As Paul comes off of the second screen, he sizes up Zaza Pachulia and goes right at him. Pachulia – ahem – falls to the ground, which leaves Felton in a tough spot. Paul turns and passes back to Griffin at the left elbow. Rather than take the extremely wide open jumper, Griffin waits for Felton to move towards him. This gives Griffin the lane he needs to drive. Griffin power dribbles towards the rim and looks to go up for a shot, but he gets grabbed by Felton and fouled.
Could Griffin have taken the open jumper? Sure. He probably would have made it, as well. However, he clearly wasn’t comfortable with the shot or the rhythm in which he got it. Instead of forcing the shot from distance, he made the conscious decision to drive to the rim. The other alternatives here for him were to pass to Lance Stephenson at the top of the arc when he started to drive, or kick it back to Paul in the left corner for a wide open three. Griffin got greedy here, but it also worked out. It still shows you the kind of things he can work on in the long run. But, primarily, it shows you just how good he can be in all phases.
Having Blake Griffin on your favorite team isn’t even fair right now. The man has turned into the best offensive power forward in the NBA and continues to light it up on a nightly basis. While we’re only just two games into this current season, it appears as if Griffin is on the verge of something special here. His minutes might be going down this year, especially if the bench plays well, but it doesn’t mean his impact will be felt any less. For one stretch of the third quarter, Griffin was the engine of the offense. Whether he was knocking down jumpers, attacking the rim, or finding the open man, Griffin was someone the Mavericks had no answer for. And, quite frankly, they are not alone in being left in the dark as to how to stop this freight train of a man.