NBA Playoffs 2012: Blake Griffin Tentative in First Playoff Appearance

Shel HillContributor IIIApril 29, 2012

Clippers need Griffin to take his level of intensity up a few notches.
Clippers need Griffin to take his level of intensity up a few notches.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The slide continued.

The Los Angeles Clippers, also known as Lob City, ended the 2012 season on a three-game losing streak and allowed the Memphis Grizzlies, their first-round playoff opponent, to surpass them in the standings and gain home-court advantage in the opening round series.

Some players, like the Clippers All-Star point-guard Chris Paul, shine in the playoffs. Others who are new to the intensity of the playoffs, come in wide-eyed and tentative. That's not okay when one of those players is one of your All-Stars. Blake Griffin not only looked nervous in his playoff debut, but played and sounded like it. When asked by TNT analyst Craig Sager if he was nervous, Griffin replied, "I don't know. I guess we'll see when the game starts."

One man does not make a team, but Griffin must perform well in order for the Clippers to have a chance to advance and move past the "hard hats of the West," Memphis Grizzlies. By halftime, Griffin had a stat line that resembled a baseball player's. He had two points, one rebound and three fouls.

To make matters worse, he was playing very tentative. Every time he got the ball in the first half, he immediately looked for someone to pass to. How can you become a threat or use all that talent if you never even look to attack the basket? What happened to the king of Lob City?

Players can have bad shooting games. That is understandable. Rebounding is a different story. Getting rebounds requires a maximal amount of effort. If a player has as much athletic ability as Griffin does, exerting some effort will undoubtedly garner more than one rebound in a half.

The Clippers are already at a disadvantage going into the playoffs without former NBA Championship MVP Chauncey Billups. He has had a calming effect on the young Clipper team and has proven to be as clutch as ever. The Clippers have replaced Billups with backup guard Randy Foye and traded for the Wizards' sharp shooter and Los Angeles native Nick Young. They are both very talented players, but both of their careers are nonexistent when compared to what Billups brought to the table.

If the Clippers are going to have a fighting chance in this series, they won't be able to depend on Chris Paul to bail them out by himself. Blake Griffin will have to grow up in a hurry and be just as productive, if not more, than Paul has always been.