Chris Paul and Blake Griffin
After being pushed to the limit by the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as the victors in as tough of a seven-game series as you will ever see.
For that, they can thank the capable leadership of Doc Rivers, but they would probably be on summer vacation by now if not for the contributions of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Over the course of the long series, Griffin answered the bell by giving the Clippers 23.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the field. Paul, on the other hand, saved his best for last, turning in an impressive 22-point, 14-assist, four-steal performance in Saturday night’s Game 7 victory at Staples Center.
One could make the case that since both Griffin and Paul’s averages during their series against the Warriors both decreased from their regular season output, they do not deserve applause, but they certainly deserve special credit for helping to guide their team through one of the most emotional ordeals that any NBA team has had to endure in recent memory.
I was about 20 feet from Adam Silver as he expressed public outrage for Donald Sterling and from what I have been told, Clippers players came under a tremendous amount of scrutiny from both current and retired NBA players to take a more powerful stance than the pre-game demonstration they had prior to tip-off of Game 4 on April 27.
Despite it all, behind closed doors, Paul, the president of the NBA Players’ Association was in constant contact with some other members of the union, as well as its leadership in New York City. Yet somehow, he managed to make his most powerful statement on the court—controlling games when needed and helping his team advance into the second round to challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As Paul struggled over the course of the series from a numbers and averages standpoint, Griffin was a versatile and consistent offensive force for the Clippers. His most notable improvement has been his decision making with the basketball. While he has always been an above average passer for a man his size and playing his position, Griffin’s basketball IQ has seemed to increase as he has been relied upon to provide more playmaking from the low box, and pinch and high post areas of the floor.
This was exemplified in the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Warriors. With the Clippers leading the Warriors 118-115 in the waning moments of Game 7, Griffin received a pass at midcourt. Knowing full well that the Warriors would foul, Griffin made a mad dash toward the basket, his thought process obviously being that he would rather a sure two points via a dunk or layup as opposed to having to convert two free-throws. He lobbed a picture-perfect pass to DeAndre Jordan, and with about 20 seconds remaining in the game, gave the Clippers a five-point cushion that was ultimately enough to prevail.
It is his decision making and understanding of pace and space that has helped Griffin enter the MVP conversation. And with Paul, as their team attempts to overthrow the Thunder in the Western Conference’s hierarchy, it is those two who, for me, have emerged as the tandem most worthy of my accolades.
– Moke Hamilton