COMMENT: Chris Paul can keep the Los Angeles Clippers afloat without Blake Griffin

Jay Asser 08:25 23/04/2017
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Alpha dog: Chris Paul scores. Picture: Getty Images.

The Los Angeles Clippers will be without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs, but from what they showed in their Game 3 victory, they’re far from doomed in his absence.

Los Angeles took a 2-1 series lead over the Utah Jazz and did so mostly without Griffin (below), who suffered a big toe injury with 3:18 remaining in the second quarter of the 111-106 win on Friday night.

Griffin didn’t return to the contest and despite negative X-rays, he will miss the rest of the postseason, the team announced yesterday.

At least in this series, however, the Clippers may be able to survive without one of their ‘Big Three’. Up until Griffin got hurt, Los Angeles had outscored Utah by a total of 237-235 through 116 minutes and 42 seconds.

Following his exit in Game 3, the Clippers outscored the Jazz 68-59, while fielding an offensive rating of 134.8 and a defensive rating of 120.3 for a net rating of plus-14.5.

For comparison, Los Angeles had an offensive rating of 106.7 and a defensive rating of 100.2 for a net rating of plus-6.5 with Griffin on the court.

“One of the biggest adjustments is we probably won’t be able to play through the post so much,” Chris Paul said of Griffin’s injury following Game 3. “He’s such a dynamic player. We go to him in the post and we cut and move off him… He’s our other assist guy.

“Just his leadership, it’s just a different feeling when he’s on the court.”

Not by chance though, Paul scored 28 of his season-high 34 points in the win after Griffin went down, converting 9-of-17 shots while dishing four assists.

The Clippers are often at their best when Paul is searching for his scoring more and distributing less, and that’s been further evident this year. During the regular season, Paul averaged three full points more in wins compared to losses (19.0 to 16.0), which is the highest discrepancy since his first season in Los Angeles – 2011-12 when he had 21.2 points in wins and 17.5 in losses.

Paul’s scoring has been needed regardless of Griffin being on the floor or not, but it was also crucial in the 18 games Griffin missed in the middle of the season after surgery on his right knee.

In that span, Paul suited up for just eight games, dealing with his own hamstring injury, but the Clippers went 7-1 in those contests and the point guard scored at a rate of 22.3 points per 36 minutes, a jump from the 20.7 points he averaged per 36 minutes for the entire season.

Aside from an aggressive Paul, the Clippers might have found a potent lineup combination in Game 3 that could be used more going forward.

Los Angeles’ five-man unit of Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce was not only the team’s most used lineup, but also extremely successful. In the 11 minutes they shared the floor, they produced an offensive rating of 131.9 and a defensive rating of 111.8 for a net rating of plus-20.1.

That lineup barely saw the floor in Game 2, but the mishmash of starters and bench players was good enough to outscore Utah by six points in Game 3.

The Clippers are by no means improved, at least not talent-wise, with Griffin gone, yet they have the means to survive in the first round.

There’s also the chance Griffin may have played his final game with the franchise as he can opt to become a free agent this summer, but that’s a problem for another day.

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