Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin still has some growing pains

The Los Angeles Clippers improved to a record of 8-5 overall Monday night, defeating the Charlotte Hornets on the road by a score of 113-92. Star power forward Blake Griffin led the way for the Clips putting up a near triple-double with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 9 assists. It’s the type of stat line that makes Griffin one of the most tantalizing players in the NBA, but also one of the most frustrating.
Through the first 13 games of the season, Griffin’s game on offense is essentially the same as it was last year. Although Blake has improved his mid-range jumper significantly from last season, Griffin still clearly has some growing pains on the offensive side of the floor.
Blake Griffin still has some serious work to do in order to improve his low-post game
Question’s about Griffin’s offensive game concern themselves not so much with how much Griffin scores, but rather how he tends to do it. While Griffin’s absurd athletic ability lends him to be the most dangerous big man in the game in transiti

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Hornets’ Kemba Walker Crosses Over Clippers’ Chris Paul, Nails Jumper

It’s not often that the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul gets crossed over, so when it does happen it’s important to give the ball-handler respect.

Near the end of the second quarter of Monday night’s game, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker nearly sent the Clippers point guard to the floor with a nice crossover. Paul had done everything he could to keep up with Walker throughout the play but ended up getting juked out of his shoes.

Walker then nailed a jumper to put the finishing touch on the play.

Still, it was a pretty good night for Paul, who totaled 22 points, 15 assists and five rebounds in the Clippers’ 113-92 victory.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Charlotte Hornets 11/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Charlotte Hornets faced a tough test on Monday night when they took on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Hornets looked to get back on the right track against a Clippers squad that has yet to find its stride this season.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies 11/23/14: Video Highlights and Recap

A potential Western Conference playoff matchup took place on Sunday as the conference-leading Memphis Grizzlies took on the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Grizzlies looked to continue their red-hot start against a Clippers group that has yet to truly find its stride at 7-4 on the campaign.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Los Angeles Clippers Looking Like Title Pretenders, and Sunday NBA Takeaways

The focus of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 107-91 mauling of the visiting Los Angeles Clippers would normally be on the victor.

But the Grizzlies’ dominant win didn’t teach us anything new about the team that has been tearing up the Western Conference for the first month of the season. The contest did, however, offer another piece of damning evidence in the case against the Clippers.

Los Angeles might not be a contender.

Marc Gasol continued his season-long demolition tour, hanging 30 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks on the Clippers. It was a brilliant performance on both ends from the man who’s played the center position as well as anyone (defense counts, DeMarcus Cousins supporters) this season.

Gasol, even in his newly trimmed-down form was perfectly happy to mix it up in an ultra-physical affair. Despite his terrific line, the big Spaniard still saw room for improvement, per Matt Moore of CBSSports.com:

And that’s where we shift the focus away from Memphis and onto Los Angeles, which put forth yet another disjointed defensive effort. Gasol’s comments served a dual purpose.

He was trying to keep his team, which has every reason to be full of itself, from getting too content. Even big wins like this one could have been bigger, he’s trying to say.

Secondly, Gasol was calling attention to the Clippers’ woeful help defense, which has been a major disappointment this season. Memphis knows it could have gotten even easier looks by moving the ball more efficiently. Somehow, its 20 assists felt like an underachievement.

It’s a perplexing problem, as this same L.A. core posted a 102.1 defensive rating a year ago, good enough to finish in a seventh-place tie with the Grizzlies, per NBA.com. This season, the Clippers check in at No. 20 with a 104.7 rating.

It’s hard to know the exact cause for this, and there’s almost certainly more than just one. Matt Barnes’ broken perimeter stroke has resulted in more minutes for Jamal Crawford, which essentially amounts to four-on-five basketball on defense. In addition, Blake Griffin hasn’t looked nearly as alert or mobile on either end this season.

Communication has been poor, as has been the team’s general effort level. For evidence of that, look no further than the historically poor offensive rebounding numbers, as noted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz:

After being out-rebounded by 20 on the night (including a minus-seven margin on the offensive boards), L.A. now ranks dead last in the NBA with an offensive-rebound rate of 16.7 percent, per NBA.com.

To be fair, teams often punt on the offensive glass in the interest of getting back in transition. But the Clips clearly aren’t defending this season, so it’s hard to believe giving up on offensive boards is part of some grand plan.

If it is, the plan’s not working.

Something just feels wrong about the Clippers, and playing against a Grizzlies team for whom everything looked so very right was a study in serious contrast.

The Clippers won 57 games last season, and it’s difficult to believe a 7-5 start means imminent doom. But the Clips fancy themselves a title contender, and it doesn’t take much slippage to make that belief unrealistic.

Less than halfway through a rough seven-game road trip, Los Angeles needs to either find a spark or risk returning home under .500. We’ll soon see whether the Grizzlies’ thorough beatdown serves as motivation or accelerates a tailspin.

The Clippers had better find their edge in a hurry. The West isn’t getting softer anytime soon.


Around the Association

Game of Inches

The Charlotte Hornets fell short against the Miami Heat by the slimmest of margins on Sunday, dropping a 94-93 decision that would have gone their way if an Al Jefferson tip-in at point-blank range had stayed down at the buzzer.

Mario Chalmers had a dozen of his 20 points in the fourth, and Chris Bosh‘s slick, fading left-shoulder turnaround from the right baseline gave the Heat a lead that would hold up through a costly turnover on their next possession. When Jefferson couldn’t clean up Kemba Walker’s shot at the buzzer, it was all over.

Devastation was the prevailing mood for a Hornets team that played well enough to win but couldn’t close the deal against a Heat squad missing Dwyane Wade (hamstring) for the sixth straight game.

Oh, and there may be trouble a-brewin’ in Charlotte:

It’s something to keep an eye on as the Hornets, losers of five in a row, try to keep it together.


Mo Speights, No Problems

The Golden State Warriors let a physical, scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder team hang around all game long, lost Andrew Bogut (orbital contusion) and Leandro Barbosa (knee sprain) to injuries (neither of which are expected to linger long term) and saw the Splash Brothers combine for just 11 made field goals on 35 attempts.

That’s not a recipe for a win under normal circumstances, but normal circumstances don’t include Marreese Speights getting loose for a game-high 28 points off the bench.

This was the continuation of a trend for Speights, who has averaged 17.4 points and 6.2 rebounds on 63.5 shooting over his past five contests. Golden State will need its most impactful reserve to keep producing with Bogut potentially limited (but very enthusiastic) as the Warriors embark on a five-game road trip, the next four of which are in the East.

Thanks to Speights, the Dubs emerged with a 91-86 win to start their travels.


Blake and Bake

Evan Turner was just trying to anticipate the Chris Kaman screen, and part of his job as a defender on the pick-and-roll is to make sure the guard—Steve Blake in this case—doesn’t get to the middle of the floor. It’s called “icing,” appropriately, as Turner looked very much like he was on skates.

Unfortunately, Turner’s anticipatory lunge combined with Blake’s quick right-to-left crossover to produce a highlight the Boston Celtics wing will be hearing plenty about in the coming days.

Turner’s defensive uh-oh was a micro example of the macro problem that sank the Boston Celtics. After defending capably for three quarters, Boston stumbled through a 10-0 Portland Trail Blazers run to start the fourth quarter—a surge that ultimately decided the game.

Summation: Blake 1, Turner 0. Blazers 94, Celtics 88.


Lakers Highlights!

Wesley Johnson got to work on both ends in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 101-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets, soaring for a hurt-your-feelings two-handed stuff on Arron Afflalo:

And then rising for the spectacular slam on Danilo Gallinari in the fourth quarter:

On a night when many Lakers fans were ecstatic to see Ed Davis get the start over the injured Carlos Boozer (finally!) and then disappointed when Davis fouled out after 22 minutes, Johnson stepped in to fill the excitement void.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s moments of heroism were the only positives in a game the Lakers gave away at the foul line and on the offensive glass.


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LA Clippers Find ‘Lob City’ Swag at Critical Time

Off to a 2-0 start on what promises to be a revealing seven-game road trip, the Los Angeles Clippers are beginning to resemble the club that claimed a franchise-record 57 victories a season ago. That is to say, they’re looking a little bit like contenders again—even if their solid but unremarkable 7-4 record hasn’t exactly left that impression.

Thursday night’s 110-93 victory over the Miami Heat was the latest evidence of a reawakening. Chris Paul‘s 26 points and 12 assists led the way for a club that raced out to a 39-15 lead after the first 12 minutes of play. 

Sixth man Jamal Crawford did his best CP3 impersonation with nine assists of his own. Altogether, the Clippers finished with a season-high 31 assists on 43 made field goals—several of which came amidst the often electric transition game for which this team is known. Miami may have been missing Dwyane Wade, but he probably wouldn’t have altered the outcome, not with L.A.’s Lob City alter ego taking over.

These Clippers would not be denied some cause for celebration.

All six of center DeAndre Jordan’s field goals were dunks, which should illustrate all you need to know about how effectively this team was creating high-percentage looks.

We’re doing what we’re supposed to do,” Paul told reporters after the contest.

At its best, head coach Doc Rivers’ squad seems to channel its highly decorated floor general. The offense is selfless, aggressive and purposeful. Los Angeles ranked third league-wide with 24.6 assists per game last season and led all teams in offensive efficiency with 109.4 points per 100 possessions. 

Simply put, this team is no stranger to scoring the ball efficiently, and its commitment to taking good shots has a lot to do with that. Tempting as it may be to hand Blake Griffin the ball and get out of the way, that’s not how the Clippers operate when the offense is purring.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for L.A.

While the Clippers opened their road trip with a decisive 114-90 win against the Orlando Magic, they’re now just 3-4 against teams with .500-or-better records. And in three of those four losses, they scored 92 points or less.

As CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore recently argued, “The problem is not the losses, or their struggles. It’s the way they’re struggling.”

And it’s been enough to spur a little introspection at the outset of Rivers’ second season running the show.

“We had the same kind of start last season,” Crawford told reporters this week. “We need to figure it out and I think getting away and getting back with each other on this road trip will be good for us.”

Last season’s Clippers went 3-3 out of the gate before finishing November with a strong 9-2 push. But there’s no question this roster hit its stride in January, February and March. Just 11 games into the Clippers’ 2014-15 campaign, that stride has proved elusive.

“They just look lethargic,” one scout told CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger prior to Thursday’s game. “They’re a shell of what they were last year.”

L.A.’s recent 105-89 loss to the Chicago Bulls (sans Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol) highlighted questions about this team’s ability to get stops, but there are also reasons for broader concern. Coming into Thursday’s contest, the Clippers ranked 21st in defensive efficiency, yielding 104.3 points per 100 possessions. 

So while the Clippers can build upon an outing in which they made 55.8 percent of their field-goal attempts (including a 13-of-31 mark from beyond the three-point arc), holding the Heat to 93 points may be just as important. Maintaining some momentum throughout the remainder of this road show will require some defensive stands—especially during next week’s meeting with the 9-3 Houston Rockets.

With five away games left before a four-game homestand beginning Dec. 1, now is a good time to reestablish a two-way identity and rediscover the winning habits to which this team’s become accustomed.

“I like going on the road,” Rivers told reporters this week. “It’s an opportunity to find yourself.”

The San Antonio Spurs have famously used their annual “Rodeo Road Trip” in February as an opportunity to build cohesion after the All-Star break. Perhaps the Clippers can adopt a similar strategy en route to some midseason momentum.

A little connectivity can go a long way for a team that’s been relying so heavily on its admittedly talented individual parts.

“I thought our trust was broken in the Chicago game,” Rivers told the media after the loss. “I thought we all tried to do it individually. That is the old way we played. We had the ball in one spot. We made some miraculous shots, but it is hard to beat a team with great defense that way. That was proved.”

Just as Thursday proved what 31 assists can accomplish.

We just got to keep trying to get everyone involved and be aggressive,” Paul told the media after losing to Chicago.

It’s the Clippers way. It’s Chris Paul’s way. 

And it was on full display during a first-quarter explosion that almost single-handedly erased any fears this team had somehow taken a step back.

“Not a whole lot to say,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after Thursday’s game. “That was a blitz in that first quarter. They absolutely knocked us on our heels and we just could never gain our footing after that.”

The Clippers have a way of doing that when playing their brand of ball. 

Maybe some time away from Staples Center will remind them how to do just that.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat 11/20/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Clippers looked to build a bit of momentum on Thursday night when they took on the Miami Heat. The Clippers were searching for their first back-to-back wins since October, but they faced a tough test from a Heat squad that had snapped a three-game skid in its last game.

L.A. came out firing as it surged to a 39-15 lead after the opening frame. That early 24-point deficit ultimately proved insurmountable for the Heat, as they fell to the Clippers, 110-93.

In a battle of big men, Chris Bosh scored 28 to go with seven boards, while Blake Griffin went for 26 and seven. Point guard Chris Paul matched Griffin with 26 points of his own and tallied 12 assists.

With the win, the Clippers improved to 7-4 and the Heat are back to .500 at 6-6.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat: Postgame Grades and Analysis

The Miami Heat were without Dwyane Wade (hamstring injury) for the fourth consecutive game on Thursday night. Without his services, the defending Eastern Conference champions found themselves down early against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, eventually losing 110-93.

Los Angeles set the tone early, jumping out to a 39-15 lead after a dominant first quarter in which it shot just south of 70 percent from the floor.

With pristine ball movement and control, the Clippers exploited a weak defensive effort from Miami. Despite tightening their effort as the game progressed, the Heat were unable to ever cut the deficit to single digits.


Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul: A

As far as point guards go, the Los Angeles Clippers can confidently claim that theirs is the best. Chris Paul has always been one of the league’s most dominant floor generals, and Thursday night was a classic instance of the veteran leading an offense both as a scorer and orchestrator.

Responsible for a good chunk of the team’s points, Paul posted 26 points (8-of-13 shooting), 12 assists and just one turnover.

His leadership on both ends gave rise to a dominant two-way effort by the entire team, and with an abundance of individual and team success, Paul remains one of the league’s best players.


Blake Griffin: A

Perhaps more so than any other NBA player in the past few years, Blake Griffin has expanded his game annually, continually introducing new elements to make him more versatile and dominant.

On Thursday, that arsenal of weapons was featured prominently as the All-Star forward finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Along with his frontcourt partner, Griffin used his size and athleticism to dominate a weak Miami interior, playing his patented role above the rim while displaying his improved mid-range shot on numerous occasions.

Though there’s still plenty of room for improvement as far as shooting goes, his confidence from the elbow offers insight regarding the direction of Griffin’s continued evolution.


DeAndre Jordan: A-

DeAndre Jordan entered the night as the league’s leading rebounder, and after grabbing 11 boards in 31 minutes, he’ll be able to boast that title going forward. On the night, he also added a dozen points.

Though Los Angeles’ dominance ran deeper than its dunking prowess, Jordan’s unrivaled finishing ability above the rim was on full display, as the big man cleaned up the scraps of his teammates and served as a dynamic force in the paint.

Efficient and productive, Jordan made his presence known on the offensive end. Without a true defensive anchor in Miami’s frontcourt, the Clippers’ man in the middle ran wild, connecting on all six of his attempts.


J.J. Redick: B 

J.J. Redick was mostly a factor in the game’s opening quarter, but in that period, he played a vital role in ensuring the Clippers’ unabridged dominance. He led the way from beyond the arc, connecting on half of his eight attempts.

After the first, his contributions came sporadically, but his ability to spread the floor allowed for the Clippers to control the paint throughout the night.


Rest of Team: D

Surprisingly, the Clippers failed to find much success in their second unit. Jamal Crawford did nothing, hitting just one of his six shot attempts in 25 minutes of action.

Despite 20 minutes of playing time, Spencer Hawes was quiet as well, scoring six points and grabbing five boards as the best player off the bench.

In the starting lineup, Matt Barnes was serviceable, but as a whole it was the Clippers’ stars who can be credited with Thursday night’s victory.


Miami Heat

Chris Bosh: A

LeBron James took his talents away from South Beach this summer and Wade has been unable to play with a hamstring injury, leaving Chris Bosh as the Heat’s lone star during Thursday’s duel with L.A.

Despite being the primary focus of the Clippers defense, Bosh contributed a strong offensive outing, finishing the contest with 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting. 

Though he failed to lead his team to victory, the lack of weapons around him makes it difficult to cast Bosh in a negative light. All in all, his play was a reminder of his superstar status and the silver lining in an otherwise dim contest for the Heat.


Luol Deng: C+

Luol Deng finished with a respectable stat line of 13 points (50 percent from the floor) and five rebounds. However, with Wade watching from the sidelines, the stage was set for Deng to play a larger role in the offense. In that respect, he failed miserably.

Quite simply, Deng’s inability to rise to the occasion left Bosh as Miami’s lone weapon, a reality that resulted in the 17-point rout.

Deng was a zero in the passing game and set the tone for Miami’s awful evening from three-point land, as the former Chicago Bulls star finished 0-of-4 from deep.


Shabazz Napier: B+

Aside from Bosh, Shabazz Napier was probably Miami’s brightest spark.

Though guards Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers got the starting nods and Shannon Brown filled Cole’s slot once the point guard exited with injury, Napier was undoubtedly the best floor general in white against the Clippers.

Well on his way to capturing the starting job, the rookie posted a balanced line of 17 points, five rebounds and three assists, showing his ability to contribute in a variety of ways. He was a presence on both ends, and despite receiving plenty of pressure as the Heat’s most dynamic backcourt talent, he fared well.

Seemingly the only capable contributor on the second unit, Napier succeeded in leaving his mark and taking advantage of Wade and Cole’s absences.


Mario Chalmers: B-

For Mario Chalmers, the 2014-15 season has seen its fair share of highs and lows, though the general trend has been in a positive direction. For the most part, Chalmers stepped up to the plate against L.A., taking advantage of his insertion into the starting lineup with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Howeverlike Denghe was not nearly as effective as Miami needed him to be, despite a performance that would normally be good enough.

He was also noticeably absent on the defensive end and was unable to get the ball moving around the perimeter, finishing with just three assists.

Overall, it was a solid night for Chalmers, but after posting 18 and 22 points in his previous two contests, his 13-point outing was slightly disappointing given the need for another stellar night.


Rest of Team: D+

Outside of those named, the Heat were awful.

Cole posted just one assist and no scores in the 10 minutes he played before falling victim to the injury bug, while Shawne Williams’ 1-5 shooting only scratched the surface of a terrible night on both ends of the court.

Only Shannon Brown seemed to make any positive contributions, filling in for Cole with nine points. Though he served as a nice bench spark for the Heat, the second unit was otherwise silent and a major reason as to why Miami was unable to put forth a respectable effort.


Coming Up…

The Clippers, now 7-4, will face the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday in the second contest of their seven-game road trip. Miami, 6-6, will take on the Orlando Magic this Saturday as they look to bounce back after this loss.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

The Miami Heat (6-5) and Los Angeles Clippers (6-4) will both look to earn consecutive victories when they clash at American Airlines Arena Thursday night.

Los Angeles may catch a break, though, considering Heat guard Dwyane Wade has missed three straight games with a left hamstring strain and is questionable for Thursday’s contest. The status of swingman Luol Deng (wrist) is also uncertain, although he did participate in the team’s morning shootaround, according to the Heat’s official Twitter account

In order to combat the Clippers’ ninth-ranked offense, Miami will need to rely on the hot-and-cold stylings of Chris Bosh. Despite averaging 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds, Bosh is shooting a paltry 41.5 percent from the field, including 30.8 percent from three, through 11 games.

As for the Clippers, they’ll lean on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to lead the way. To date, Griffin is averaging 22.8 points, seven rebounds and three assists, the only player in the NBA to meet those nightly standards, according to Basketball-Reference.com

Paul, meanwhile, is averaging 17.2 points, 9.7 dimes and 2.2 steals while shooting 49.3 percent from the field. 

Thursday’s contest will also pit the league’s two-worst rebounding clubs against one another. Thus far, the Clippers and Heat rank 29th (37.6) and 30th (37.4), respectively, in rebounds per game, although Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan leads all players with a rebounding average of 12.3.

You can catch all the action at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.

Keep it locked here on Bleacher Report throughout the night for real-time updates, highlights and analysis of all things Clippers-Heat.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Orlando Magic 11/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Clippers looked to get themselves on track on Wednesday night, when they squared off against the Orlando Magic. The Clippers had alternated losses and wins in their last seven games, and were looking to avoid their first two-game skid of the season, but faced a tough test from the athletic young Magic, who had won three of their last four games. 

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