Blake Griffin's Monster Game 2 Exposes Warriors' Weak Interior Defense

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

AP Images

Blake Griffin's 35-point eruption in the Los Angeles Clippers' 138-98 Game 2 dismantling of the Golden State Warriors might seem like an outlier. After all, as good as Griffin is, we can't realistically expect him to go 13-of-17 from the field every night.

Can we?

Unfortunately for the Warriors, Griffin's big night is probably closer to a sign of things to come than it is an unrepeatable aberration.

True, every member of the Clippers was motivated by a desire to avenge a Game 1 loss at home. And yes, they played this game with the must-win desperation of a team terrified to head north to Oakland with a 0-2 deficit in the series.

Perhaps those influences won't be quite as strong going forward.

But when the Dubs sit down to watch the tape of Los Angeles' biggest postseason win in franchise history, they'll notice something: They don't have any answers.

Well, actually, they'll notice two things: They don't have any answers, and Griffin has taken a massive step forward this year that makes him a nightmare for absolutely anyone—undersized or not.


Size Matters

This was the preferred angle coming into the series, wasn't it?

Everybody talked about how Andrew Bogut's absence robbed the Warriors not just of their defensive anchor, but of the one specific guy who could control the interior against high-flying freaks of nature like Griffin.

It doesn't happen often, but the conventional wisdom to which almost everyone subscribed looks dead-on right now.

David Lee has long been a pariah in analytics circles for his lack of effort and team-killing rebound-hunting. He's not a guy who changes the game in a positive way on defense, and although he's not a complete disaster in one-on-one matchups against Griffin, it was always Bogut who took that assignment when both were on the floor.

Additionally, the big Aussie handled other, less gentlemanly duties—ones that went unfulfilled on Monday:

Jermaine O'Neal is certainly a willing competitor, and he told B/R he was ready for the challenge before Golden State flew down to Los Angeles for Game 1:

I'm sure there would have been points in the process of a seven-game series where I would have probably had to play extended minutes anyway. So those type of things don't really affect me. They don't affect my thought process because I have a job to do and I expect to do it well. That's my personal challenge.

Willing is one thing, but being physically able to hang with a guy like Griffin—who, in addition to being a full decade younger than O'Neal, also seems to be a different species altogether—is another. O'Neal logged just 15 minutes in Game 2.

Then there's Marreese Speights, whose chief contribution was earning a technical foul for hitting Glen Davis with a frustrated elbow. He's generally invisible as an interior defender, and he certainly was against the Clips on Monday.

So, if Golden State's current available roster doesn't feature anyone capable of wrangling Griffin, what's the solution?

Perfect! How much Kevlar does it take to outfit a 7-footer?


Additional Non-Solutions

There'll definitely be some carping over Griffin's ability to play 30 minutes in Game 2 without being whistled for a foul. Stephen Curry took out his frustration on that very issue by tossing his mouthpiece and earning a rare technical foul after Griffin contested (but actually didn't commit a foul) on back-to-back Curry layups.

Here's the thing about that, though: Whining about Griffin's supposed preferential treatment, permission to take somewhere between four and 19 steps on his drives and generally annoying demeanor isn't a solution.

It's a desperate, pouty way to deal with the fact that he and his teammates crushed the Warriors in precisely the manner everyone expected. Griffin could have fouled out before halftime and the outcome of the game wouldn't have changed.

So, as much as it's tempting to grouse about Griffin getting away with fouls, and as much as Warriors play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald would have you believe Golden State is the victim of a decades-long, leaguewide conspiracy by every official who ever pocketed his whistle on a 50-50 play, just forget about the fouls.

They're not the reason the Warriors lost Game 2. And they're not the reason they're likely to lose this series.


Small Ball, Bad Omens and Short Series

Apr 21, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) drives against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the third quarter in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Ma

Smaller lineups were supposed to be the way to go against the Clips. They were supposed to give the Dubs a chance to increase the pace, spread the floor and, hopefully, get lucky with some hot shooting.

We know now that it won't work four times in seven games against the Clippers. Nothing Mark Jackson does can take Griffin off the floor, and nothing he does can get Bogut onto it. Schemes are nice, but personnel matters more.

Looking ahead, Griffin won't shoot 76 percent in every game. Nor will the Clips crush Golden State by 40 every night.

But unless Bogut makes a miraculous recovery, one thing seems pretty clear: L.A.'s performance in Game 2 took advantage of a Warriors weakness that isn't going away.

Golden State's exciting upset in Game 1 was fun, and it may have inspired some hope of yet another first-round gem from the Dubs. But it's looking more and more like that win will be the lone bright spot in a Warriors postseason going dark in a hurry.