Blake Griffin ran roughshod over the Blazers on Sunday night, physically overpowering multiple defenders on his way to 21 points and 12 free throw attempts.
Before Game 1 against the Blazers, Griffin had looked tentative and out of shape since returning from suspension and injury five games ago. He averaged only 10 points per game on 40 percent shooting as the Clippers tried to work their All-Star power forward back into shape through the tail end of the regular season. Notably, Griffin's jump shot failed him as he shot 6-27 from 10 feet and out.
Against the Blazers, however, Griffin instantly snapped out of his malaise and solved his shooting woes by hammering the Blazers down low. He combined power and footwork to score on the low block against Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee:
He also overpowered smaller players on switches:
And ran in transition for easy baskets:
It was a vintage performance from a player many doubted would return to form in time for his team's first-round series. Clippers fans have taken to calling this incarnation of Griffin "Playoff Blake" and he is truly dominant.
For their part, the Blazers may not have been fully prepared for the surprising return of "Playoff Blake" and will attempt to counter his resurgence in tomorrow's game. They can start by forcing him out of the low post. Griffin is stronger than Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless and also agile enough to move around them on the low block. As the first video in this article showed, if he establishes position down low he can score easily over the Portland defenders. Beating him to the spot in the post so that he has to initiate moves further from the basket will be key for the Blazers in Game 2.
The Blazers will also need to track Griffin in transition. The Clippers created several scoring opportunities around the rim for him after Portland failed to get back in time to adequately cover Griffin. The Blazers may need to sacrifice some of their offensive rebounding to ensure that they're not giving up dunks on the other end.
If the Blazers can cut off these two easiest avenues of scoring for Griffin, they may force him into more midrange jump shots. Griffin has become effective from the midrange in recent seasons, but as noted at the top of this article, it's still unclear whether or not Griffin has regained his shooting touch since his return from injury earlier this month. And he did nothing to answer that question in game 1 - despite his dominant play he failed to hit a single jump shot. Pushing the opposition into the midrange is a primary tenet of Portland's defense and if they can play to that strength against Griffin it may go a long way toward limiting his effectiveness.
It will be tempting to call for double teams to help contain Griffin but that would likely be unwise - he is a great passer and has no trouble recognizing where the double team comes from and hitting the open man. Thus, the Blazers will need to find a defender strong enough to push back against Griffin's "bully-ball" post moves and agile enough to hang with Griffin in the open court. Whether or not the Blazers have a defender who can do that will determine whether or not "Playoff Blake" helps swing the series in the Clippers' favor.