Ken Berger: ‘Griffin Has Expanded His Game’

In his last two games – arguably the biggest of his career – Blake Griffin has posted a pair of triple-doubles. He had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a Game 7 win over the Spurs on Saturday, and he had 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists in a Game 1 win over the Rockets on Monday.

Tim Duncan may have played a role in each.

“Yeah, and unfortunately for Tim Duncan, he did it against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, so there’s kind of a little twist of irony there,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Blake is kind of a very curious guy and aways wanting to know what he can do to get better, to improve his game. It’s a little bit of an old stereotype with him. It’s been a couple of years since he’s been kind of correctly viewed as a one-dimensional guy. He has expanded his game. But this year, he’s really taken a leap. He made a point of seeking out Duncan last summer, and he just wanted to talk to him – one of the greatest winners ever in the sport – (and) just find out how do I become better? How do I become a better leader? How do I become a better winner? And Duncan gave him some good advice. He took it to heart.

“And the other piece of the puzzle, of course, was improving his game,” Berger continued. “Kind of figuring out how to be a better playmaker on the floor (and) working on his shot so that he can be more dangerous in that midrange area when he gets the ball and can’t get anything done in the post.”

And then there was conditioning.

“You saw the results of that in the Spurs series, a grueling seven-game series,” Berger said. “After averaging 35 minutes a game in the regular season, (Griffin averaged) over 40 against the Spurs. That work during the season to work on his conditioning in a very targeted and smart way – monitoring his heart rate and finding out what zones he needed to be in to kind of replicate what he would face in an NBA game – it’s really all come together for him.”

The Clippers will need another big game from Griffin in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET. Berger has not gotten official word as to whether Chris Paul (hamstring) will play, but he has a feeling he won’t.

“My gut feeling is that he does not play, and if I were Doc Rivers, I wouldn’t play him,” Berger said. “It’s not like it’s a fake injury. He really was hurt in that Game 7 (win) against the Spurs. And in my view, they’re kind of playing with house money a little bit. that can be a dangerous point of view to some degree, but they went to Houston and they got one. So I think you’re playing with house money there.”

The Rockets, meanwhile, must avoid dropping the first two games of this series at home, especially after looking so flat in Game 1.

“On one level, it’s only one game – and you can lose a game at home in the playoffs, so it’s not completely off the spectrum,” Berger said. “But I was surprised (that) the energy level and the body language was so much (in) the Clippers’ favor. On one hand, they’re riding a high coming off finally breaking through and beating the Spurs and doing it in such dramatic fashion. But I also felt that was going to take so much out of them – both physically and emotionally – that I didn’t think they’d have anything tot tap into in Game 1. I thought it was going to be the Clippers that would need some time to get it rolling – and it turns out it’s the Rockets.”

The Clippers held the Rockets to 45.2 percent shooting from the floor in Game 1 and limited James Harden to just 13 shots. He still finished with 20 points and 12 assists, but the MVP runner-up will likely look to score early and often Wednesday.

“I find it hard to believe, hard to imagine, they’d be able to hold James Harden down that way two games in a row at home, so you got to figure he’s going to get his,” Berger continued. “(But) who else is going to get involved in their depleted state and with Dwight (Howard) kind of being inconsistent in terms of a guy you can throw the ball into and get something done? It’s going to be tough for them.”

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