BEST OF 2012-13: BLAKE GRIFFIN’S TOP 5 NON DUNKS
It is easy to get hypnotized by Blake Griffin’s dunks.
He puts on arguably the best show in the NBA. He averaged 2.5 slams per game last year, many of which were of the jaw-dropping, gravity-defying variety. Still, zeroing in only on Griffin’s dunks sells many of his other highlights short. And there were plenty of them. Combing through the deft spin moves that led to layups, jump hooks, steals, saves and blocked shots was not an easy task. The ways Griffin impacted a game beyond the dunk show was infinite. Here are some of the most sensational ways he did so:
5. 1/22/13 vs. Thunder: Wrong Way Twist
Without Chris Paul in the lineup due to a bone bruise in his knee the burden fell on Griffin to carry the workload. He scored 31 points with 11 rebounds and five assists in a battle of the league’s two best teams at the time. Even in a loss he was sensational. On this play, he drove from left to right across the lane, guarded by Serge Ibaka (fewer than two months before Ibaka’s flagrant foul against Griffin). As the season progressed Griffin used his left hand more and more. He would finish dunks and jump hooks with the left at a far greater frequency than his first two seasons. As he drove hard to his right, it appeared Griffin was going to spin off Ibaka for a lefty hook shot, but Ibaka cut the first move off. In one motion, Griffin contorted his body back the other direction and nailed a right-handed hook a step outside of the restricted circle.
4. 3/26/13 at Mavericks: A Little Payback
Griffin drew 436 fouls last season, sixth most in the league and second most among big men. There are few players who draw and initiate as much contact as the three-time All-Star and sometimes the result of the contact can be frightening. In Dallas on Mar. 26, with the Clippers grappling with Memphis for the No. 4 spot in the West standings, Griffin was fouled hard on a breakaway by O.J. Mayo. He crashed into the stanchion after hitting the floor and Mayo was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul. Later in the game the scenario was reversed. Mayo was loose on a breakaway and Griffin was stalking him from behind. It was a chance at payback. Instead of taking Mayo out, Griffin went high above him and swatted his layup attempt away, saving a basket with under a minute to go. Much like a Major Leaguer hitting a home run after being plunked by a pitch, Griffin earned the best kind of retribution.
3. 1/30/13 at Timberwolves: Circus Closeout
Another one of the games without Paul meant Griffin and Jamal Crawford were the go-to players in the final minutes. With less than a minute to go, Eric Bledsoe snagged an offensive rebound off of a Crawford miss. The ball ended up in Crawford’s hands again and he found Griffin at the foul line with 31.3 seconds remaining. J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic collapsed on Griffin, who seemed stuck. The three-second count for his time in the paint as well as the shot clock were ticking down as he wriggled free to heave up a shot falling to the floor. Pekovic reached into him, drawing a foul, and Griffin nailed the basket to clinch the game. Maybe it was those trick shot videos he compiled with DeAndre Jordan a few years ago, but Griffin is adept at hitting wildly impossible shots. Probably his best two did not count: a ball that rainbowed in after a foul where he flung the ball over his shoulder in 2011-12 and the one last year against Dallas where he had a game-winner waived off thanks to a questionable offensive foul call.
2. 3/10/13 vs. Pistons: The Total Package
Outside of showing his ability to run the floor, Griffin showed off everything that makes him an elite player in effectively seven seconds. After Maxiell, the then-Pistons bruising forward, tipped the ball away, Griffin got him isolated on the right side. He crossed him over, stutter stepped, feigned a step-back jumper with an exaggerated head fake and blew by Maxiell baseline for a reverse layup. Quickness, handles, athleticism, ability to finish… the total package.
1. 11/23/12 at Nets: Denied!
It was not so much a blocked shot as much as it was like Griffin erased Deron Williams’ dunk attempt from existence. As Griffin rotated on the play it was already setup for a phenomenal highlight. Williams was either going to dunk on the guy who has taken dunking on guys to a new stratosphere or he was going to get denied. Griffin won. He met Williams at the rim and emphatically ripped the ball away from him with one hand. Moreover, he retained possession and his balance long enough to throw an outlet pass to Chris Paul. The Nets’ announcers excitedly yelling, “Denied!” adds to the whole thing, considering it was their franchise player who got rejected. Williams had fun with it later, too, posting on Twitter: “I hope @blakegriffin gets fined for his flagrant block he had against me!”
BONUS: 2/23/13 vs. Jazz: Fantastic Voyage
No one should question Griffin’s effort and here is exhibit 1A. The ball gets knocked toward the sideline he goes headfirst after it, sliding on his chest across the court to save it inches before it goes out of bounds. He scrambles to his feet by doing a pushup on the ball and finds Chauncey Billups who kicks it to Caron Butler for an open 3-pointer in the corner.