Heat put brakes on Blake, cruise to easy win

BY foxsports • February 6, 2011

MIAMI — Turns out Blake Griffin can be contained after all.

The Heat hustled, held, hammered, bumped and bothered the 21-year-old wunderkind all afternoon Sunday on the way to a 97-79 win, discombobulating the Los Angeles Clippers' big guy enough to prove two important points.

Griffin can be hassled into something approaching ineffectiveness. And the Heat, in showing they're the ones able to contain him, marked another important step in their attempt to move from over-hyped to championship caliber.

The same Heat team that was rendered hopelessly ineffective by mediocre big men in November forced Griffin into a 7 of 17 shooting performance. Take away his three dunks and the surefire Rookie of the Year shot a miserable 29 percent from the field to get his 21 points.

He also missed two dunks, which sucked out as much energy from his team as his aerobatics usually add.

"We shot horribly from the field," Griffin said. "I have to do a better job individually and help my teammates out more."

That's because as Griffin tends to go, so go the Clippers. Despite two incredible dunks, Griffin's poor shooting, lack of energy and overall frustration impacted his team.

The Clippers shot 32.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the three-point line and turned over the ball 19 times. As Griffin faded late in the game, the Heat pulled away for an easy win.

Griffin did manage to pull down 16 rebounds — a catalyst to his team pulling down 44, matching the Heat's total — but it wasn't enough.

Instead, it was the Heat's ability to frustrate Griffin that sealed the day. Their containment of one of the league's freshest and most exciting talents also showed the Clippers, for all their holes, need to move to the top of their postseason shopping list the following: an enforcer capable of protecting their franchise player.

"I am going to go to war for my teammates," Baron Davis said of a technical foul he received during an exchange with Eddie House, after the Heat guard had drawn a flagrant for undercutting Griffin. "I am always going to stick up for my teammates. My teammates are like my brothers."

That's all well and good, but Davis can't offer the protection Griffin needs. Short of the Clippers finding someone who can, Griffin will have to learn to be his own enforcer.

No easy task for a 21-year-old, but there it is.

Knock a player down. Decide not to accept the rough treatment and go toe to toe. Hell, go schoolyard or prison style, pick the weakest person to challenge you and make a statement. Whatever the approach, Griffin needs to find a way to mix in some fear with the awe his play usually inspires.

That needs to be his focus until the Clippers add a Udonis Haslem type of player who's able to step up and lay down the law.

Without either, the Heat were able to limit Griffin and walk away with a win despite their own poor play.

On a day when the Super Bowl seemed more on their minds than their own game, they gave a lackadaisical effort, shot poorly (44.2 percent) and received a season-low 12 points from LeBron James.

James, during the officials' review of the rough House foul on Griffin, complained he wanted them to hurry up. Because, after all, he had a Super Bowl party to get to.

So, yeah, not exactly a day of sharp focus and great effort. Just enough badass play against Griffin to make it an easy win.

"It was the (13) turnovers — the offensive rebounds (only 10), the missed free throws (9)," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Arguably we gave them close to 20, 25 extra possessions that we didn't need to."

Still, Dwyane Wade's 28 points, Chris Bosh's 16 and House's 15 were enough.

It might have been a different matter had the Clippers summoned a better showing. Had Griffin been a better version of himself.

"This team (today) can be very explosive and we held them to 79 points and a low field-goal percentage," Wade said.

More important, the Heat showed they can muster a game plan capable of holding down a powerful big man — with the kind of guts and toughness they lacked during the down days of November.

And the Clippers showed it's time to get some muscle to ensure other teams aren't able to push around them, and their star, the way the Heat did.

You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter.

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