Blake Griffin is starting to make opponents pay for fouling him. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
There were times last season when Blake Griffin was anxious the moment he stepped to the free-throw line, knowing his 52.1% free-throw percentage was the big weak spot in his game.
Griffin also knew that his free-throw shooting, along with that of center DeAndre Jordan (52.5%), weighed on the Clippers. They ended up as the second-worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA last season at 68%.
But this season, both Griffin and Jordan are more confident when they step up to the free-throw line.
"I look forward to going to the line now," Griffin said after practice Friday, as the Clippers prepared to play the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at Staples Center. "I feel much more confident about it, and I feel like my shot is there. I've just got to keep working on it."
Griffin is making 65.1% of his free throws, which would be a career-best if he continues on that pace.
Though Jordan is making just 43.8% of his free throws this season, he did have a stretch in which he made seven consecutive free throws in a two-game period before he missed one against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
Now the duo can say they have played a role in the Clippers making 78.8% of their free throws this season, seventh-best in the NBA before Friday's games.
"When you go to the free-throw line and you miss free throws, you don't want to put your team in that position where you're supposed to be getting two points," Griffin said. "You go to the line and you feel like you're letting your team down. So, there was times, yeah, where I definitely felt like that."
The Clippers hired shooting coach Bob Thate to work with Griffin and Jordan on their shots, including free throws. Both still have more work to do.
"Now I'm focusing on specific mechanics and specific things that I've worked on with Coach Thate, and I'm not going up there thinking, 'Don't miss this,'" Griffin said. "Which never is good."
It was on every highlight reel, so the 6-foot-1 Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe couldn't miss the replay of him blocking a dunk attempt by Miami's All-Star guard Dwyane Wade.
But Bledsoe said he watched the replay "plenty of times," and not just to admire his work.
"I always watch film when I go home and see my mistakes," he said.
And it was his mistake — a turnover, one of four he committed in that game — that led to a fast break by Wade.
"I can't compound my mistakes," Bledsoe said. "Once I turn it over, if I don't get back, he probably has an easy dunk. So I turned around, and I hustled back and go into the play, and we ended up getting the ball back."