GRIFFIN FINISHES THIRD IN MVP BALLOTING

OKLAHOMA CITY – Blake Griffin’s finest season as a professional was validated in many ways Tuesday afternoon.

Griffin, who averaged a career-high 24.1 points per game in 80 games, had a team-high 43 double-doubles and was named an All-Star starter for the third consecutive season, was announced as the third place finisher in the NBA’s Most Valuable Player balloting.

Griffin received 434 points, including one second-place vote, to finish behind Kevin Durant (1,232 points) and LeBron James (891). Durant received his award Tuesday afternoon at a press conference in Oklahoma City.

“I’m honored really. It’s hard to believe,” Griffin said after a team meeting as the Clippers prepare for Game 2 of their postseason series with Durant’s Thunder. “I said earlier that it was kind of a two-man race and towards the end there it was kind of a no-brainer.

“Third place, you don’t really get a trophy for that,” Griffin added. “It’s nice to be considered like that, but at the same time I think I have a lot of areas for improvement.”

Griffin put together a rare all-around season, becoming the first player since Tim Duncan in 2001-02 to average at least 24 points, nine rebounds, 3.5 assists and shoot 50 percent or better from the field. He also helped lead the Clippers to a franchise record 57 wins, including a 12-6 record when fellow superstar Chris Paul was out with a separated shoulder.

Paul finished seventh in the MVP race. In addition, reserve guard Jamal Crawford is considered the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and center DeAndre Jordan finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and fifth in Most Improved balloting.

“It shows that we have a lot of depth,” Paul said. “Obviously, me, Blake and D.J. are the leaders of our team. All that’s good and well, but everything is to win a championship. All the individual accolades come with the success of the team.”

 As for Griffin, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers did not sound surprised that Griffin finished as high as he did for MVP. In fact, he had suggested Griffin would be at least third a couple of months ago.

“It does validate it,” Griffin said. “I thought he would be third. I thought he had a chance at second actually for a while. He had a sensational season and he’s being noticed for it.”