Blake Griffin’s 33 leads Clippers over Kings in season opener


Not since Sam Cassell (35 points, 2005) has a Clippers player scored more than Blake Griffin‘s 33 points in a season opener, and the Clippers needed every bit of it as they narrowly defeated the Sacramento Kings 111 to 104, to kickstart the 2015-16 NBA season.

Going up against a “new-look” Sacramento Kings team, even in their mediocrity you knew they wouldn’t lie down, especially center DeMarcus Cousins who finished with 32 points (and somehow made four threes), but through the first three quarters of the game this matchup played out as excepted, with the vastly superior team in Los Angeles beating up on a team looking to find an identity. AT least, until the fourth quarter where last season’s ails came back to haunt the Clippers.

Down 13 to start the quarter, in less than five minutes into the fourth the Kings were able to cut the lead down to four, and in the process, forced Doc Rivers to go away form his bench to play the starters more than he probably expected to. This is how the Clippers lost many-a games last season; how Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan were worn down physically in the thick of things, namely the latter end of the team’s second-round series against the Rockets, eventually failing to capitalize on a 3-1 lead. And it’s why Rivers entered free agency as an aggressor despite limited resources, and stumbling upon “big name” role players in Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, and Lance Stephenson (and others), in hopes of shoring up the biggest hole this supposed contender dealt with as a team.

But in game 1 of 82, the bench failed to do it’s job and keep the starters on the bench as the game ends. They don’t deserve one-hundred percent of the blame — the Kings did an excellent job on flipping the switch and hitting threes to cut the deficit.

Fortunately enough, the starters + Paul Pierce had enough in the tank to put the game away, with CP3’s jumper over Boogie with :33 seconds left in the game to give LA a four-point lead being the dagger.

Despite Griffin only scoring 2 points in the final quarter, the All-NBA member put on a clinic in the opening three quarters, including 20 points in the opening half. Whether it was the jump shot, low-post attack, off-the-dribble, or getting to the free-throw line, what Griffin displayed tonight was the compact version of “PlayoffBlakeGriffin”. The confidence is there, and the smarts are finally catching up to the athleticism, creating a player fans have hoped to see since entering the league in 2009.

Of the newcomers making their team debut, it was Paul Pierce who’s stuck out the most for Los Angeles, as his 8 points in the fourth quarter were crucial in keeping the Kings from running away with a lead. Lance Stephenson, starter, finished with 7 points and 2 assists, looking more and more comfortable in his role each time down the court. Josh Smith finished with 1 points on 0-2 shooting, but made an impact on defense with 4 blocks.

On the other side, outside of Boogie’s dominating and scintillating performance, Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufos, and Darren Collison joined the big man in scoring double digit points, with Gay leading the way among the three at 16. The biggest non-surprise of the night came from the continuously awful play of Rajon Rondo, the team’s biggest offseason addition and, for some reason, starter despite having not showed to be an average NBA player in over a year — in 25 minutes, Rondo finished with 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting and a +/- of -8 (for those paying attention, an interesting storyline to keep an eye on is seeing how long it’ll take before Kings head coach George Karl gives Rondo the boot and inserts Collison, former Clippers guard, into the starting lineup).

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At 1-0 Los Angeles still has work to do. The one-game sample against Sacramento sits on both sides of the spectrum, highlighting the many things that already work and the handful that needs immediate improvement. Fortunately, there are 81 more games in the season to work out the kinks, so for now it’s celebrating being undefeated (for the time being).

Next up for the Clippers is a duel in Dallas Thursday night (SEGABABA to start the season) — according to sources, some stuff happened between these two teams this summer so this may be entertaining; or a blowout, because the Mavericks aren’t good but definitely entertaining.

Next: Clippers 2015-16 Season Opener: Their time starts now