Blake Griffin has become the first player in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers' franchise with three consecutive games of 30 or more points. And he's made it look easy, even without Chris Paul's help.
Griffin scored 19 of his 36 points in the first quarter and Jamal Crawford added 21, leading the Clippers to a 118-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in a matchup of division leaders Friday night.
"I expected greatness, but Blake's done some things we didn't know he could do," coach Doc Rivers said. "Clearly, we're taking advantage of him in the open court with the ball. And he'll be even better when Chris comes back."
DeAndre Jordan had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the defending Pacific Division champions, who are 12-6 since Paul separated his right shoulder on Jan. 3.
"When it first happened, we didn't know how long it would be at that time," Crawford said. "Me and Blake understood what it meant, and that more was expected of us. But it's been a total team effort, and that's a credit to the coaching staff. They always keep us prepared. You saw how things went for Doc in the past with Boston when he lost Rondo and had K.G. in and out of the lineup. But he never made excuses, and he wasn't going to allow himself to make excuses this time no matter who was out."
'You can't give them any leeway. You've got to fight with them to the end.' - Raptors' DeMar DeRozan on Clippers' top players
Griffin, who had 36 points at Denver and 43 against Miami in the Clippers previous two games, capped his dominant opening quarter on a 20-footer with 2.4 seconds on the clock to give the Clippers a 29-22 lead. Crawford, who had 37 points in the previous meeting between the teams, burned the Raptors for 14 points in the second quarter while starting again for the injured J.J. Redick.
"Their big [players] created some problems. And when you've got a player like Jamal Crawford, it can definitely get tough," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said. "That's why you can't give them any leeway. You've got to fight with them to the end."
Jordan attempted 22 free throws and converted a career-high 10, after entering the game averaging 43.4 per cent from the foul line.
"I think they started fouling him when they were down 18. And when they stopped it, they were down 17," Rivers said. "It's like when they intentionally walk people in baseball — and that's no fun to watch. I would say it changed the rhythm of the game, because we had a great pace and we never got back to that. But as far as the score, it really didn't change anything."
The Clippers, coming off a 116-112 loss to the NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday, are 4-6 against the other five first-place clubs. They haven't dropped back-to-back home games in the regular season since Nov. 3-5, 2012, against Golden State and Cleveland.
DeRozan had 36 points and eight assists for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors, who concluded their 2-3 road trip with their fourth straight loss to the Clippers at Staples Center. They lead the Brooklyn Nets by three games in the standings.
Terrence Ross, who tied Vince Carter's single-season franchise record with 51 points in the Raptors' 126-118 loss to the Clippers on Jan. 25 at Toronto, picked up two fouls in the first quarter and finished with nine points in 28 minutes on 3-for-10 shooting.
Amir Johnson hit Griffin in the head with his left arm as the four-time all-star drove the lane on an attempted slam dunk with 9:50 left in the third quarter. The call was a flagrant 1 foul after referees James Capers, Mark Lindsay and Matt Boland viewed the replay at the scorer's table, and Griffin converted both free throws for a 75-56 lead.
Less than 3 minutes later, Jordan blocked a short jumper by Kyle Lowry, leading to a 3-pointer by Matt Barnes that widened the gap to 82-60, the Clippers' biggest lead of the game. Griffin got his fifth foul and took a seat with 5:16 left in the third, but by then the Clippers had built an 84-66 cushion.
Toronto ended the quarter with a 10-1 spurt, slicing its deficit to 92-83, but they got no closer. Willie Green helped seal the victory with a pair of 3-pointers 1:24 apart. The Clippers were 9 for 24 from behind the arc, improving to 22-0 when making at least nine.