Blake Griffin aims to be more reliable for the Clippers late in games.
It took him all of one game into the the 2014-15 season to take a step in that direction. With five seconds left and the Clippers holding on to a one-point lead against the Thunder, Griffin had the ball with a teammate ahead but elected to dribble it himself thinking he could outrun the Oklahoma City defense.
He was caught, fouled, and sent to the free throw line.
He made them both, increasing the Clippers lead to 91-88, in an eventual 93-90 win.
Although he wasn’t necessarily holding on to the ball so that he could get fouled, that was the result of the play. And it was a statement from Griffin.
"I’m not going to shy away from a situation like that," said Griffin, who finished with 23 points and made seven of his 10 free throw attempts.
Over the previous two seasons, Griffin has seen tremendous strides in his free throw shooting as he’s worked to raise his percentage 52 percent to 66 percent to 72 percent last season.
Setting the stage for Griffin’s moment at the end of the game Thursday night was Chris Paul. Less than 10 seconds earlier the Clippers point guard stepped to the line in a similar situation and missed both foul shots.
Paul was surprised he missed them, saying the ball felt good coming out of his hand both times. Seeing Griffin able to convert, however, wasn’t surprising to him at all.
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"I expected nothing less," Paul said. "Down the stretch, in close games, it’s no secret it’s going to be me and Blake. Nine times out of 10 we’re going to be in those situations. This is our fourth year together. I expected nothing less than him going to the line and knocking them down. That’s big for us."
Added Griffin: "I’m very comfortable with it. I think that’s a big step for me âbeing someone that our team can rely on down the stretch and I’m comfortable with it."
When asked if he would have been comfortable stepping to the line late in a game two seasons ago, Griffin said he wasn’t sure if he was.