I went to last night's Clipper game, a win against the Kings, one of the few teams with a worse record than the Clippers. With Baron Davis out with a "sore back," which I'm hypothesizing is, "We, the Clippers, are in official tank mode for a higher draft pick," Steve Blake is starting at PG. Based on watching most Clipper games live this season, I'm going out on a limb and saying it: Steve Blake runs a better offense than Baron Davis. I'll explain right... NOW: (Disclaimer: yes, this is against the Kings, not a team like the Hawks who they lost to the previous game. Disclaimer2: Steve Blake is in a contract year).
Steve Blake is a pure PG. He's always looking to set up other shooters, lobbing for dunks, and pushing the ball on fast breaks. He never went one-on-five looking to be bailed out by a foul or take an off balanced jump shot. Case in point: he had 2 points in the first quarter, 0 points in the 2nd, 7 in the third, and 2 in the 4th. Those 7 in the third - 2 free throws, a 3 pointer when Eric Gordon was trapped on the baseline and passes along the baseline to the opposite corner for a wide open Blake 3, and a jump shot at the free throw line extended off a nice screen where I believe it was Casspi who went under the screen, leaving Blake with a wide open jumpshot.
Assists by quarter - 2 in the first, 6 in the 2nd, 1 in the 3rd, 3 in the 4th - 12 total (stats per quarter source: nba.com). Again, he was lobbing to Deandre and Gordon, setting up Rasual Butler and Gordon for 3 pointers, and doing some nice pick-and-pops with Chris Kaman. And by the way, he would have had 15 assists if DeAndre Jordan hand't gotten a case of the Kwame and had the ball slip out of his hands on 3 wide open slam dunk opportunities, which leads me to my next point about Blake...
Steve Blake is a good teammate - When the Kings were making a run, cutting the Clippers' 11 point lead down to about 5, there was a possession when Blake was double teamed and made a solid bounce pass to DeAndre right underneath the basket where all he had to do was rise up and slam it on NOBODY because he was left open, the ball some how slipped out of his hands and went out of bounds, to which the crowd reacted with "AAAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" As the Clippers ran down the court to play defense while the Kings were inbounding, and DeAndre sulking with his head down, embarrassed, Steve Blake went up to him, smacked his ass and said something along the lines of, "Don't worry about it, get it back on defense," "Get it next time," "Keep your head up," etc.
From DeAndre's Twitter: I couldn't catch a cold butt naked in Alaska last night. Will be better tomorrow, promise!!I've seen Baron Davis set up DeAndre before where he's missed scoring opportunities, where it's lead to Baron rolling his eyes, rolling his whole head, joining the crowd in a not so loud - "arrrghh!" Blake is a good teammate and knows that getting mad at a young teammate just for the sake of being mad at him is not going to help. OF COURSE, there's a time when a player must yell at his teammate, but there's a time and a place, and it's not in the midst of a lead almost lost when the team just needs to settle down.
Steve Blake doesn't take plays off - Defensive or offensive. I've seen Baron, on an offensive possession, stay in the backcourt to complain to a ref or to sulk about a blown defensive sequence. Case in point:
Defensive possessions: on a turnover that led to a fast break wide open layup, Steve Blake was sprinting his ASS off to try and swat the ball. He didn't, but that didn't stop him from getting the ball inbounded and running the offense to try to answer with a Clipper bucket. In half court defensive sequences, he's rotating to open guys, directing Chris Kaman to rotate to an open spot, it's mind boggling how high his basketball IQ is. Another example, on a turnover caused by Blake when he passed from the top of the key to the right wing, it was stolen and the Kings were off to a fast break. All of the Clippers hadn't gotten down the court yet (Steve is always pushing), so when it was stolen, it wasn't a clear path. Knowing this, Blake wrapped up the Kings player which led to an inbounds play rather than a layup, or free throws for a clear path foul. So smart.
Offensive possessions - Steve Blake is always running and pushing. Even on made baskets. He doesn't seem to lose any energy, he's pushing the ball up like it's a fast break. In half court sets, he's NOT one of those PGs that stays at the top of the key after the first pass is made. He's cutting to the basket, setting screens (however useless they might be - he's really skinny), and always looking to make the right pass. It's fun, it's exciting, and it produces results.
Steve Blake knows his role: At the end of the game, the ball was in Eric Gordon's hands. Blake wasn't trying to win it all. He knew who his scorers were and who had the hot hand and boy did Eric Gordon have the hot hand last night. He was driving to the basket, kicking the ball out, hitting the 3 pointer; he saved the Clippers last night when they almost gave up their 11 point lead, but it was Blake who got them that lead in the first 3 and a half quarters.
So what does this all mean? The Clippers got a really good PG, who I believe runs a better offense and plays better defense than one of the Clippers' so called "saviors," Baron Davis. Back to my disclaimer, these are the KINGS we're talking about, but are the Clippers that much better? Well, yeah I guess they are. The Kings had Tyreke and solid role players in Casspi and newcomer Landry. But it was a team the Clippers were supposed to beat, and they beat them (like they should have beat the Nets after beating the Lakers and Celtics earlier in the year).
So if and/or when Baron comes back, he'll start again. He'll run the offense for the Clippers. They've invested way too much money in him to bench him for Steve Blake who's gonna be a FA this summer anyway. But I stand by my point that Steve Blake runs a better offense and plays better defense than Baron Davis, at least for one game. I'm going to the Charlotte game on Monday, so we'll see how he does against a better team.
But the REAL question of the night? Where can I buy Blake Griffin's sports jacket. Stylish.
(Photo from yahoo)