Rapid Reaction: Clippers 120, Wolves 116 (OT)
December, 22, 2013
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin probably will be the starting power forward for the Western Conference when the final balloting for the NBA All-Star Game is announced. It will be his third straight year as the starter if the current figures hold.
The starting lineup for the game is a popularity contest voted on by the fans. Kobe Bryant, after playing only six games this season, figures to be voted to start as well.
But the Los Angeles Clippers' game Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves was an opportunity for Griffin to show he was in the conversation to be the best power forward in the game, regardless of the fan vote, as he went up against Kevin Love, who arguably has that title now along with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Griffin's line would certainly make him worthy of sitting at the table. He had 32 points, 10 rebounds and was 10-for-11 from the free throw line before fouling out. The jump his game has made this season from last season and certainly his rookie season is incredible. Anyone still questioning his ability to shoot from the midrange and the free throw line hasn't watched him play this season.
But the best forward in the game right now was standing across from Griffin for much of the Clippers' 120-116 overtime win over the Timberwolves. As good as Griffin's game was, Love's was better. He had 45 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists and was 13-of-15 from the free throw line. He was a constant force when the Wolves needed him most even if his team came up short.
The gap between Love and Griffin isn't massive, but there is one, regardless of what the final All-Star tally might be. That's not an entirely bad position for Griffin, who has found a way to respond to challenges and doubters so far during his career.
How it happened: The Clippers amazingly pushed the game into overtime after Chris Paul stole the ball from Kevin Martin and knocked the ball ahead to Jamal Crawford, who tied the score with a dunk. In overtime, the Clippers were able to eke out the win even after Griffin fouled out, thanks to Paul, who totaled 16 points and 13 assists, and scored the Clippers' final five points.
What it means: After winning their past four games in blowout fashion, the Clippers had to come back from seven points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime and beat the Wolves. The Clippers have now won five in a row and seven of their past eight games, and have the best record in the league against Western Conference teams.
Hits: Griffin had a solid night going against Love, recording 32 points and 10 rebounds, and was 10-for-11 from the free throw line before fouling out. Love may have had a better night, but Griffin will have no problems taking that individual loss as long as the Clippers win.
Misses: Matt Barnes was ejected from the game after a flagrant foul 2 on Love at the end of the third quarter. The flagrant foul might not have been bad enough to warrant an ejection, but his reaction could warrant a suspension. After the foul, he approached the officials, pleading his case, and had to be restrained and led off the court by his teammates.
Stat of the game: For the first time in their past five games, the Clippers allowed an opponent to score more than 97 points. In fact, it was only the second time in their past 11 games that they've allowed a team to pass the century mark.
Up next: The Clippers have back-to-back days off after playing on back-to-back nights and will next face the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Christmas night. It's the second time the teams have met this season, after the Clippers beat the Warriors 126-115 in the Clippers' home opener. The two teams' dislike for each other runs so deep that the Clippers refused to conduct chapel service with the Warriors before their last game, a rarity in the NBA where such services are open to both teams regardless of the rivalry on the court.