Blake Griffin, Clippers keep calm under pressure
As impressive as his 37 points were on Monday night, Blake Griffin’s ability to keep cool in the face of a confrontation was perhaps just as important to the Clippers.
Griffin didn’t retaliate when Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker threw a forearm at his chin after the two became entangled and went down in a heap in the fourth quarter. Even if he wanted to, players from both sides separated them quickly.
But Griffin also knew that being ejected might have been costly to his team. So he remained calm.
It’s a lesson he learned at a young age, he said later, and something he has put into practice frequently as opponents have tried to rough him up under the basket.
"When I was little, I would play my older brother and he was always whuppin’ me," Griffin said. "I couldn’t do anything. I used to fight, I used to get mad, I used to grab him and swing on him. I used to do all that stuff.
"Now it’s not really that frustrating. You just take it as another tactic and move on. Sometimes that’s what it comes down to."
Griffin has kept his fiery emotions in check, but so have the other Clippers. They’re a team full of passionate players, but channeling that emotion in a positive direction is a challenge for coach Doc Rivers.
"You want them to have passion," Rivers said after the Clippers beat the Suns 112-105 for their eighth consecutive win. "You just don’t want them to be too emotional. It’s a very dangerous (line to walk), but it’s who we are. But I think we’re ready for that."
Staying even-tempered and avoiding ejections could serve the Clippers well in the playoffs. But it isn’t always easy.
"It’s tough at times, especially when our three main guys — me, Blake and D.J. (DeAndre Jordan) — are all very emotional," guard Chris Paul said. "None of us are sort of that even keel. We’re all very emotional, but I think we’ve all done a great job with it.
"I told Blake during that (skirmish with Tucker) that it’s crazy being his teammate and seeing the different fouls and the things he takes. He sacrifices so much for us. He could’ve easily punched back and got to fighting, but he didn’t. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s pretty selfless of him.
"He’s stronger than me."
By now, Griffin is used to it. Opponents like to muscle him and gain an edge, and although it usually results in pushing and shoving or an occasional wrestling match, he resists firing back.
In the case of Tucker, who was suspended one game, he actually considered it.
"It’s not to say I wasn’t going to (retaliate), but in the moment I don’t want to put my team in a bad situation," he said. "I don’t want to put myself in a bad situation."
Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Clippers face the Golden State Warriors, another team they’ve battled, figuratively and literally.
Does it mean another night of possible fighting?
"Whatever it takes," Rivers said. "It should be a fun game. We’re playing a lot of good teams. It’s good for all of us."