Game 3 Roundtable Preview: Chris Paul Back!, Super Blake, etc.


Ditching the basic game preview, myself, Tom, and new writer Nicholas have joined together for a roundtable discussion, speaking on Blake Griffin’s playoff performances so far, Chris Paul’s anticipated return, the most important reserve, and our prediction for Game 3 of Clippers-Rockets. Enjoy.

Question 1: On a scale of 1-10, rate Blake Griffin‘s performance in the 2015 NBA Playoffs so far.

Tom West: Out of 10, Blake Griffin has easily earned a rating of 10. It would be possible to drop him to a 9, due to his rather weak performance in the second half of game two against the Houston Rockets (2-of-9 shooting for only 8 points) but if you put those two quarters aside, Griffin has excelled. Every aspect of his game has improved during the playoffs so far, and his averages of 25.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game are something that very few — if any — players can do right now. Superstars such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry are in this year’s playoffs, yet Blake has more assists than both of them. He recorded a triple double in game seven against the Spurs that was pivotal for his Clippers to advance, and in the absence of Chris Paul in game one against Houston he recorded another. He’s been the best all around player in this year’s playoffs, and he is well and truly deserving of a 10.

Trisity Miller: I’m gonna break the 10 scale and give him a 15. Not only has Griffin proved all doubters wrong in the regard that his style of play couldn’t translate in the halfcourt during the playoffs, but he’s proven me wrong in one small regard: the Blake Griffin we saw in the regular season was a reserved version of the monster we’ve witnessed through nine games (FWIW, the only player to average what Griffin is currently averaging in the playoffs is Hall of Fame guard Oscar Robertson).

Nicholas Hughes: 9. With the play of Chris Paul in the first round seemingly determining the outcome every game, it goes without saying that Blake Griffin’s contributions went largely unnoticed. Yet for those of us who were looking at him out there, he was doing everything right. He filled up the box score with a triple double in what seemed like every game, and in the wake of CP3 being out for the first few games of this series Griffin stepped into the spotlight as the Clippers’ sole superstar. The only reason I’m not giving him a perfect 10 thus far is his inconsistent defensive play on opposing bigs, as well as being turnover prone when trying to do too much.

May 6, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (middle) and head coach Doc Rivers (left) react with the bench after a play during the second half against the Houston Rockets in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Question 2: What are your expectations for Chris Paul in Game 3?

West: Chris Paul’s situation is still somewhat up in the air. Although, if he tries to play in what could be limited minutes (maybe even just 25 minutes) he should still aid the Clippers in the ways he always does. If Paul can’t play tonight, then Jamal Crawford will take responsibility of being the primary ball handler and the offense will continue to revolve around Griffin’s distribution from the top of the key. With his exact condition still being uncertain, it’s hard to predict exactly what Paul’s impact will be. However, if he plays, the most important benefits to the Clippers will be him relieving offensive pressure from Griffin, and his defensive presence on the perimeter to slow down James Harden.

Miller: Simple: to be better than Austin Rivers. That’s easy to do if the hamstring is still an issue, right? On a serious note, I expect him to do what he’s done throughout his career and that’s control the game offensively and make things easier for his teammates, especially Griffin whose role added to late-game fatigue, as seen best in the second half of Game 2. As well as Rivers played in Paul’s absence, there is so much more Paul can give to a team than Rivers — or any other Clippers guard — can give. What I’ll be keeping an eye on most is how Paul deals with being defended by the bigger Trevor Ariza a la Kawhi Leonard/Danny Green in Round 1 — in Game 7, Paul struggled mightily, but on an ‘improved hamstring’ he’ll be better in that regard.

Hughes: Chris Paul has now had plenty of time to heal and rest up. I expect him to come out of the gate aggressive and looking to create offense for his team just as he’s always done. This isn’t the regular season, so there’s no time to ease him back in to the mix slowly. The Clippers need to have a now or never mentality, and CP3 needs to stand at the heart of that. I expect a solid outing from Paul, possibly a double-double effort with around 25 points. Griffin has done well in the playoffs with haloing to facilitate from the post, which allows CP3 to attack and score more consistently.

Mar 29, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Phil Pressey (26) defends against Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) and forward Glen Davis (0) in the second half at TD Garden. The Clippers defeated the Celtics 119-106. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Question 3: Who is more important off the bench in this series and why: Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, or Glen Davis?

West: Even though Austin Rivers’ increased confidence during the playoffs so far has been a very welcome sight, Jamal Crawford is still the key to the Clippers’ bench. He had a weak shooting performance in game two (as he went a mere 6-of-22 from the field) but whenever he is able to get hot, his ball handling and quick fire energy is the main factor that can make L.A.’s second unit a productive one. Rivers is still unreliable at times when in control of the ball and doesn’t execute the pick-and-roll with enough efficiency when he runs the point. And Glen Davis normally just sets big screens and slows down the offense. The bench MVP has to be Crawford.

Miller: My initial thought for this question was Austin Rivers, but given how fatigued Griffin played in the second half of Game 3 (increased responsibility played a role in this), I’m going with Glen Davis. With Spencer Hawes completely out of the picture, Davis has been tasked with filling in at both big man positions but in the case of Blake Griffin’s fatigue, if he can provide 7-15 solid minutes of production, the Clippers won’t need to rush Griffin into games.

Hughes: Austin Rivers has had a bit of a resurrection under his father’s watchful eye out in LA, and his postseason performance has certainly been unexpected. Glen Davis is the third big man in the Clippers’ rotation, so when Jordan or Griffin is out he is expected to contribute mightily in their place. However whenever you speak about the Clippers’ bench you have to say it all revolves around the play of Jamal Crawford. He hasn’t had the best go of things thus far in the playoffs, but he is certainly due for a break out performance. CP3’s ailment might continue to plague him, and quite frankly both Redick and Barnes are offensively limited to working from beyond the arc. Crawford needs to be a constant threat to light the Rockets up for the remainder of the series.

May 6, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) drives the ball as Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) defends during the first quarter in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Question 4: Prediction for Game 3?

West: Tonight could well see the Clippers have another bounce back performance. Despite poor shooting from Crawford and a weak second half from Griffin, they only lost game two by 6 points. Oh, and they didn’t even have their best player, Chris Paul, either. If Paul can contribute in anyway tonight for even 20 minutes (if Doc Rivers wants to ease him back into playing) he can have a serious impact, particularly for containing Harden. Griffin will most likely come out with increased aggression to prove himself again and Crawford shouldn’t miss so many shots. For game three, the Clippers win.

Miller: Given how the first two games played out, I can’t see the Clippers being worse off with Paul in the picture, gimpy or not. With that said, I see the Clippers winding handily in their first game at home since Game 7 vs. San Antonio UNLESS Houston’s shooters get hot from three. If that happens, we’ll have ourselves a game ladies and gentlemen.

Hughes: Game 3 will be won by the Houston Rockets. They’re a great road team, and the fact is James Harden is still the best player on the court in this series. I think they pull this one out in an incredibly hard fought contest. In all likelihood this game will also be on the high scoring end, it certainly isn’t a stretch to say that I believe that the two teams combined will score an upwards of 220 points in the contest. Offense is what these teams are known for, even though both did manage to hold their own on the opposite end of things. The biggest key for the Clippers to prove me wrong will be to limit the offense of Harden. By no means is that an easy task, but if they can hold him to at least a poor shooting affair then they should be able to pull out a W.