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Clippers lose to Thunder, 111-88, in Blake Griffin's bittersweet return to Oklahoma

He serves as pallbearer at funeral of friend Wilson Holloway, and reminders of him are everywhere in place they both called home. Oklahoma City uses 15-0 run to close out first half.

February 22, 2011|By Lisa Dillman
  • Clippers forward Blake Griffin, left, and teammate Willie Warren sit on the bench during the final minutes of the Clippers' 111-88 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin, left, and teammate Willie Warren sit on… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )

Reporting from Oklahoma City — Blake Griffin kept Wilson Holloway in his heart, and over it, for a little while Tuesday night, paying homage to his late friend by wearing a blue T-shirt from Holloway during pregame warmups.

Holloway and Griffin were supposed to have gotten together Monday and the Thunder-Clippers game was to have been the first time he played in front of Holloway and family and friends as an NBA player in Oklahoma City.

Griffin, instead, served as a pallbearer at Holloway's funeral Monday and wore the shirt with the No. 71 of the Tulsa offensive lineman on it, with the inspirational motto, "Just keep smiling."

"That was a T-shirt he had made when he was going through his whole deal," Griffin said after the Thunder beat the Clippers, 111-88, at Oklahoma City Arena, using a 15-0 run to close out the first half. "He sent it to me awhile ago."

This was the Clippers' first game since Griffin learned of Holloway's death of complications from Hodgkin's lymphoma Wednesday. A whirlwind of All-Star activities followed, and when he and his parents got on a plane Sunday night, his mother, Gail, said her son was "exhausted."

Griffin looked it and sounded as though he had a bad cold, hoarse and sniffling through interviews in the morning. But he had enough left in reserve to nearly pull off his first triple-double: A game-high 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. It was his 47th double-double of the season.

"He is the man here," said Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. "He is still the man here in Oklahoma City."

Griffin wanted to thank his Clippers teammates for helping him make the All-Star team, so he left each one of them a pair of high-end headphones as a present at practice Monday.

"It's been a long five, six days since the end of the road trip," he said. .

The sellout crowd of 18,203 greeted him with a warm ovation when he was introduced before the game.

'I was hoping they would and had a feeling they would," said Gail. "They were the hometown kids playing at Oklahoma, Blake and [Blake's brother] Taylor, it was kind of unique. They did it for Taylor last year too," when he was with the Phoenix Suns.

"It was wonderful. I wish the game could have gone differently and I know Blake is going to be mad. He takes it hard. The thing for Blake — he loves to have a good game personally — but what is more important for him personally is that the team win."

Said Blake Griffin, of the crowd reaction: "To be honest, I didn't think about it too long. It was nice to hear that. There's been moments on the road like that."

There were the accompanying head-swivels too because of his spectacular moves, especially when he took Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka to school with a spin move, putting down a one-handed alley-oop in the fourth quarter.

That was one of the rare times the Thunder was in chase mode after a tight first quarter. The Clippers were scrambling hard after Oklahoma City's second-quarter run, in which the Clippers did not score in the final 3:39 of the half with Griffin on the bench.

The Clippers had 17 turnovers to the seven for the Thunder, and they missed 12 free throws. Rookies Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu combined for 25 points off the bench but Bledsoe had five turnovers.

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