On the surface of things, it would appear that the Los Angeles Clippers‘ 102-97 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night came in spite of a great effort from Blake Griffin, who posted 27 points and 14 rebounds in 38 minutes of action. When one considers that no one else on the Clippers’ roster scored more than 15 points, it would make perfect sense to claim that Griffin was the premier force to be reckoned with on the night.
But unfortunately for Clippers fans, this belief would only ring true if you did not actually watch the game. This is because throughout the game, Griffin did score a massive amount of points and grab a significant amount of rebounds, but it really felt as if he had no impact on the game.
Of course, this is somewhat of an oxymoron in itself, but the interior presence of the star forward was minimal at best. On the defensive side of the ball, there was no inclination that Griffin was even on the floor for much of the game, preferring to let center DeAndre Jordan work in the post alone. In fact, on multiple occasions, he simply got out of the way when a player came driving into the lane, preferring to take shy away from potential shame rather than challenge another player or make a hard foul.
Throughout the game, it looked like Griffin was more interested in finishing off big dunks — which he did against LeBron James and Chris Bosh — than truly competing against either one in the lane. It appeared that without a clear opportunity to drive into the lane and complete one of these signature dunks, he was content to simply give the ball up and let a teammate do the dirty work. While no one could reasonably expect him to drive the lane every single possession, it would be nice to see a little bit of effort put in the post, as it would open up space for others and create a variation to his own game.
While on a November night early in the season, things like the interior presence of one guy may seem minimal in importance. When it comes to Griffin, every game should be taken as a referendum on the progress he has made. After all, just last offseason he made a vow to mold into a player that would be a force in the post and in a half court set up, with new head coach Doc Rivers hired in large part to make sure this transition occurred smoothly.
With six games down in the 2013-14 season, it is extremely evident that this transition has been anything but smooth and that the Clippers are hurting for it. The team currently sits at 3-3, and while they have scored the most points per game in the NBA, they have also allowed the most. This polar opposite statistical output is eerily evident of the Clippers’ last two seasons, as they still prefer to play a run and gun style that simply will not work in the playoffs when the game gets more physical and half court oriented.
Griffin has been a walking example of this unwillingness to play a half court game this year, as his 21.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game look good when one ignores his horrific play in the post both offensively and defensively. While Clippers fans will surely huff and puff over how great their beloved star is on the way to ignoring these warning signs, it is time to take the blinders off and realize his statistical output belies the fact he is not an impact player.