GRIFFIN AND LOVE: SIMILARLY DIFFERENT

LOS ANGELES – Blake Griffin pivoted to face up on Kevin Love early in the first quarter Monday night and you knew it was go time.

Of all the attributes that separate the superstar forwards, Griffin’s quickness and athleticism are the yin to Love’s perimeter shooting yang. The two All-Stars are often compared. They’re dissected at times. But despite the numerous differences there are intricate similarities between the two young stars.

They were in the same high school graduating class, played on the amateur circuit against one another and have blossomed into a pair of the best power forwards in basketball. Since Griffin’s rookie year (2010-11), Love is first and Griffin second with the most games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Of course, they both topped those marks Monday at Staples Center.

“I played with both guys and I know coming in it was kind of personal for both of them,” Clippers center Ryan Hollins said. “Kevin is such a smart player. Blake is the same way: smart, works hard and is such an athlete.”

That’s what makes the billing of Griffin and Love so attractive. They have played each other nine times now. They’ve alternated wins in each of them. And they seemingly do take it personal. “We’re friends during the summertime, but during the season it’s a battle,” Griffin said.

Love is the guy who uses leverage and angles to grab a game-high 19 rebounds on Monday and lead the NBA through eight games. Griffin’s the guy who out jumps leverage. Love stretches defenses out to the 3-point arc. Griffin is athletic enough to contest him out there. And while it has been overly simple the last three seasons to peg them as polar opposites, there are plenty of similarities unrelated to their wry senses of humor or marketability. 

“I’ve been fortunate to play with both of them,” said Ronny Turiaf, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent this summer after spending a year with the Clippers.

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“We are talking about the cream of the crop. We are talking about two of the guys that are the hardest workers that I’ve been around. We’re talking about guys who are dedicated to their craft in a way that to me is amazing and I respect and can learn from. You’re talking about one of them who is the most athletic power forward that I’ve ever been around and the other one is a guy that’s getting the most rebounds. He’s a guy that’s always around the ball.”

There was mutual admiration from both sidelines, for obvious reasons.

“He’s shooting the ball better,” Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman said of Griffin. “I think he’s just gotten better every year. He was already so explosive.”

“He’s a great player,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of Love. “He does some really interesting things.”

Griffin scored 25 points and added 10 rebounds and five assists. Love went for 23 points, 19 boards and seven assists. He guarded Griffin sparingly, leaving that duty to bull-dozing center Nikola Pekovic, who Griffin sauntered past on three occasions in the first quarter.  

On the other end, Griffin took the challenge of Love. He was the primary cover for most of evening, helping hold Love to 8-for-19 shooting. But even while cross-matched defensively, they went at each other. They fought for rebounding position with Griffin getting driven under the rim on a couple of occasions and then returning the favor later in the game. Whenever he got Love in one-on-one coverage, Griffin made the most of an array of spin moves or created off the dribble. Love made a number of plays from the post, dumping the ball off to Pekovic or finding a cutting Kevin Martin, who led all scorers with 30 points. Love missed a potentially game-tying tip in at the buzzer after Griffin missed a tough potentially game-clinching layup on the previous possession.

After the game Griffin said he likes playing against Love because he feels like he can learn a lot from him. It’s likely that Love, who called Griffin “a very good player” likely feels similarly. It would only make sense, given how closely they’ll be linked for the rest of their careers.