GRIFFIN MOTIVATED BY ‘CAN’T DO’ CRITICS
DALLAS – Blake Griffin stood against a whiteboard inside the Clippers’ locker room at American Airlines Center had a poignant response for his critics.
His play a few minutes earlier did enough of the talking, however.
Griffin, who says he is motivated by all of the things people say he “can’t do,” put the Dallas Mavericks away, helping the Clippers to a 109-103 come-from-behind victory.
He scored the game-tying and go-ahead field goals in the final 1:16 and stifled superstar Dirk Nowitzki on the other end of the floor.
Clutch shots and defense. The 25-year-old Griffin isn’t supposed to do those things.
“For the past, however long, two years or so, all I’ve heard is everything I can’t do,” Griffin said. “I take pride in those things people say I can’t do. [Defense] is one of them. But it’s a long list and it’s going to continue to be like that. I just use that as motivation and try to get better. I mean, obviously, it’s an area that I need to get better in, but at the same time I think sometimes people get a little carried away.”
Griffin finished with 18 points, including 14 in the second half, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in 40:03. While Chris Paul carried the load scoring-wise for most of the night, Griffin was doing everything else.
On a night when he failed to score 20 points for the first time in 30 games, Griffin had a profound impact on the game. He worked to make life difficult for Nowitzki, he grabbed 13 of the Clippers’ 41 rebounds, he was selective, efficient and led everyone on the floor in minutes.
“He can do everything for you to help you win a basketball game and I thought tonight was a great example of that,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said.
In the broader picture, Griffin’s performance showed why he is considered one of the leading MVP candidates in the league. It’s something Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said was inarguable before the game.
“It’s legit,” Carlisle said of the MVP talk. “I don’t think he’s going to win it, but his being in the conversation is legit.”
By 10:30 p.m. in Dallas, Carlisle’s comments seemed prophetic. And it came at the expense of Carlisle’s franchise player.
For the second night in a row, Griffin was asked to defend a fellow All-Star power forward. He frustrated Anthony Davis in New Orleans and held Nowtizki without a field goal in the fourth quarter Thursday.
“He’s a great player and he’s going to score and he’s going to get shots,” Griffin said. “So, I just tried to make it tough for him and my teammates did a great job of not giving a lot of space so he couldn’t see driving lanes and things like that. Fortunately, we got some to rim out.”
Griffin did more than that. When Dallas went to Nowitzki down the stretch, in the midst of the Clippers’ comeback from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the future Hall of Famer got nothing. Griffin rejected one of Nowitzki’s patented fadeaways, crowded him on the perimeter and muscled him away from the basked when the 7-foot Nowitzki tried to post him up. In the final minute and the game tied at 101, he got Nowitzki in the air and forced him into a backcourt turnover as he thought twice about shooting and tried to fling the ball back to Jose Calderon.
“Dirk is one of the best scorer’s to ever play,” Jamal Crawford said. “He’s a walking mismatch to be that tall and be able to shoot like that. So, that’s tough on anybody and [Griffin] did a great job.”
“We talk about all the other stuff - his offense and his passing – [but] Blake the last two games especially his defense has been off the charts,” Rivers said. “We didn’t help down the stretch and he guarded, to me, one of the best offensive players in the history of the game, and stayed with him and fought him. Dirk made some shots, but overall Blake was absolutely wonderful.”
Griffin was as clutch offensively as he was on the other end of the floor. His driving layup in transition tied the score with 1:16 to go and two possessions later, Rivers called Griffin’s number out of a timeout. Griffin received the pass a step above the free throw line, spun to the right past Brandon Wright, Dallas’ best shot blocker, and finished with a finger roll in traffic.
“He hadn’t scored much in the fourth quarter,” Rivers said. “It was C.P. (Paul) and other guys. Then we call that timeout with a 2-for-1. We give it to him in the middle of the floor and he does whatever he does. I don’t craft that I don’t know what the hell he does. But he gets to the basket and lays it in.”
Griffin added: “You’ve just got to be ready when your number’s called and they trusted me and got the ball to me in the right spot. Everybody made plays all game and that just happened to be one.”
The Clippers forced a wild shot from Monta Ellis on the next Dallas possession and they put the game away at the free throw line. Paul finished with 31 points, DeAndre Jordan had his 36th double-double and all five starters scored in double figures, but it was Griffin who won the game.
“Blake was the MVP of the game tonight,” Paul said.
He just might be one of the top three in MVP balloting in the league, an award voted on by the same critics who claim he does little else but dunk.