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Is Blake better than ever?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Since going 1-for-9 on Nov. 26 in a loss to New Orleans, Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin hasn't shot worse than 50 percent in any of his last 15 games.

It's no coincidence the Clippers haven't lost in that stretch.

Think about that for a second. 15 straight wins. There have been many times in the past when the Clippers struggled to win 15 games in an entire season. Like when they went 17-65 in 1994-95 and 1997-98. Or 15-67 in 1999-00. Or 9-41 during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

One of those pitiful seasons changed the fortunes of the woeful franchise: 2008-09, when Los Angeles went 19-63 and secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, a pick that turned into Griffin and set off a chain of events that allowed the Clippers to become playoff contenders.

Griffin's numbers are down for a second straight season, from 22.5-12.1 in 2010-11 to 20.7-10.9 last season to 18-8.7 this season. However, a lackluster performance to start the season is partially to blame.

Including that Nov. 26 game, Griffin averaged 16.8 points on 49.2 percent shooting his first 14 games. In his last 15, however, Griffin is putting up 19.2 on 57.6 percent shooting. He has also only turned the ball over 0.8 times per game in the span after giving it up an average of 3.1 times in his first 14.

Griffin has also increased his thefts from 0.8 per game last season to 1.5 in 2012-13. Through 29 games, Griffin is only 10 steals shy of last season's total, accomplished in 66 games. He has improved at the foul line as well, making 62.3 percent of his free-throw attempts after making just 52.1 percent last season.

After a torn meniscus in his left knee caused him to miss the Olympics, Griffin hired a shooting coach and worked with him every day leading up to training camp. It worked -- there has been a noticeable improvement in his mid-range game this season.

Griffin only made 31.8 percent of his jumpers last season (28 percent on shots 10-15 feet from the basket and 37.1 on shots 16 feet to the 3-point line), according to Basketball-Reference.com. This season, he has drained 40.1 percent of his jumpers while making 52.4 percent of shots from 10-15 feet and 39.3 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line.

More of his shot attempts have come from 10 feet to the 3-point line this season (33.9 percent to 31.6 percent), so those improved shooting percentages aren't misleading.

After making all of those improvements and putting together a 15-game hot streak, why has Griffin still experienced such a steep decline in his points and rebounds? Well, blame it on the winning. And a deep rotation. For the first time in franchise history, the Clippers have realistic NBA championship aspirations and are planning accordingly.

Griffin is only averaging 32 mpg this season, down from 36 last season. He has played even less during the 15-game winning streak, turning in 31 mpg. Los Angeles also has nine players averaging 18 minutes per game or more, and that doesn't even include Chauncey Billups, who has only played three games this season (20 mpg).

Griffin's statistics per 36 minutes -- 20.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists -- are very similar to his previous two seasons.

While 36-minute stats aren't that relevant to fantasy standings (Jimmer Fredette is averaging 22.1 points per 36 minutes this season, after all), it's good to know that Griffin is actually playing better basketball than ever before, especially in his last 15 games.

Due to improvements in mid-range and free-throw shooting, ball security and defense, Griffin is also a better fantasy player than ever before.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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