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Clippers, Griffin work on keeping cool

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers are an emotional team, and sometimes they let their emotions get the best of them.

They currently lead the NBA with 52 technical fouls, averaging close to one per game.

Blake Griffin is tied for third in the NBA with 11 technical fouls while Matt Barnes is tied for fifth with 10. If either gets to 16 before the regular season ends, he will be hit with a one-game suspension.

“It’s a mind over matter type of thing. You just have to be mentally strong,” Griffin said. “I didn’t do a good job, especially in the first half [on Saturday] of not letting that affect me and not letting what else was going on affect my game. We have to do a better job, and I have to do a better job. It’s really just a mindset thing.”

Griffin had 11 technical fouls last season, which tied for third most in the league, but he has done a better job of controlling his temper late in games. A perfect example came Saturday against the Utah Jazz when he was hit with a technical in the first half for complaining to officials but kept quiet in the second half and scored 12 points in the third quarter.

“I think Blake has grown in a lot of areas,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s got to control some of those emotional things that can be detrimental to the team; he understands that. We rely a lot on him … his growth has been positive I think.”

One of the biggest areas Griffin has grown in has been at the free throw line. He’s shooting 66.2 percent, which is a career high, after shooting 52.1 percent last season. This month alone, Griffin is shooting 71 percent from the free throw line.

“I don’t dread going to the free throw line,” Griffin said. “I embrace it now. Now when I got to the free throw line, I’m just thinking of my mechanics. It’s a different mindset now. It feels second nature.”

With only 24 games left in the season, Del Negro didn’t seem overly concerned that Griffin or Barnes would pick up enough technical fouls by the end of the season to warrant the one-game suspension but did admit the team needed to do a better job of controlling its emotions.

“We got to do a better job of controlling our emotions,” Del Negro said. “Obviously, the rules change so the air punches and frustration and throwing the ball against the backstop, you can’t do. You have to understand that. We can’t give up a point or two, and we have to do a better job here in the last stretch of the season before we get into the playoffs because a point here or there can make the difference.”