Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan made four-of-six shots from the free-throw… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
When DeAndre Jordan steps to the free-throw line these days, the Clippers center seeks inspiration wherever he can find it.
When Blake Griffin steps to the line, the All-Star power forward seeks peace of mind.
These new mental approaches seemed to help Jordan and Griffin prosper at the line Friday night when the game hung in the balance against Sacramento.
Both of the Clippers' young big men have struggled at the line throughout their NBA careers. Jordan, 25, is a 42.4% free-throw shooter in five-plus seasons; Griffin, 24 and starting his fourth pro season, is at 61.1%.
But on this one night, with the outcome still uncertain, both delivered from the line to help push the Clippers past the Kings.
"I think Blake is a good foul shooter and I think DJ can be," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "But I don't worry about it. If they make them, they make them."
After the Sacramento game, Jordan stood in the locker room and joked, saying, "A wise man known as the Great Philosopher, the Shaqtus, the Big Shamrock, once said, 'It's about when you make them.'"
Jordan laughed, as did his teammates.
Of course Jordan was referring to former NBA center Shaquille O'Neal, who was a career 52.7% free-throw shooter but always maintained he would make them when they counted the most.
Jordan also told a story about how teammate Jamal Crawford told him to bank in a free throw late in the Kings game, and that made Jordan laugh and relax enough to make two pressure free throws with 2 minutes 39 seconds left to increase the Clippers' lead to five points.
He may be shooting just 40% (eight for 20) from the line this season, but Jordan has an ally in Rivers.
"Doc is definitely a motivator," said Jordan, who was four for six against the Kings. "He has told me he doesn't care if I shoot them over the backboard, just as long as I try to make one out of two. Then I'm going to come down and help us get a [defensive] stop."
Griffin was eight for eight from the line against the Kings, including two for the final margin in the Clippers' 110-101 victory. He's at 61.5% (16 for 26) after three games, but that's after going three for 10 against the Lakers in the season opener Tuesday night.
"That Lakers game, I don't know. I was like out of mind. I wasn't shooting. I was thinking too much," said Griffin, whose 66% success rate last season was the best of his nascent NBA career. "I haven't shot that poorly in a while. But when I step to the line now, I feel like they are going to go in. I never shy away from going to the line."