GRIFFIN PLAYING AT ‘MVP LEVEL’
LOS ANGELES – Early in the third quarter of Friday night’s blowout victory over the Lakers, Blake Griffin tracked down a rebound off his own miss, drove baseline, lobbed an alley-oop to his buddy DeAndre Jordan and raced back to draw a charging foul on Jodie Meeks 14 seconds later.
To say Griffin has done it all for the Clippers would not be selling his level of play over the last month well enough. Griffin has been an MVP.
He’s averaging 25.5 points per game since Dec. 14 with the Clippers going 11-4, including winning three of four without Griffin’s superstar running mate Chris Paul. He is shooting 54.0 percent the floor and 77.0 percent from the foul line. He is playing defense, drawing charges, like the one against Meeks, on a near nightly basis and without Paul, he’s been making plays for others, totaling 18 assists in three home wins this week.
“He’s just doing everything for us, rebounding, defending,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve said it before, he’s such a good passer that people don’t know about. They get lost in his dunks and the fancy stuff. He is a great passer, not a good passer. With [Chris Paul] out we’ve really been giving him the ball and playing through him at times and it’s paying off for us.”
The dunks are easy to get lost in. He followed up another iconic throwdown over Kris Humphries Wednesday with two more sensational dunks in the first quarter against the Lakers. But he did so much more, that in some ways the other stuff may have for once outshone the dunks.
He had a twisting layup where he threw the ball in with his back to the basket. He made nine of his 11 foul shots. He nailed jumpers over Pau Gasol and threw lobs a pair of lobs to Jordan. He finished with 33 points on just 15 shots, grabbed 12 rebounds, and had four assists, four steals and two blocks and did it 29 minutes. According to Basketball Reference, since 1985-86 no player has reached those statistical levels in a game in fewer than 33 minutes before him.
It is somewhat par for the course when it comes to Griffin’s output. He has reached at least 25 points seven times in the last 11 games. He’s the only player in the league averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists while shooting 50 percent or better. He’s already won two Western Conference Player of the Week awards this season: once in November and another in December. And his January award should be arriving soon.
“Blake’s played phenomenal,” said Darren Collison, who has started the past four games at point guard in place of Paul. “He’s receiving all the credit that he deserves. We’re not surprised. We know Blake can play at an MVP level every single night. He’s been playing so hard on the defensive end. I’m just amazed by his effort.”
J.J. Redick who returned to the lineup Friday after a 21-game absence with a fractured hand and partially torn ligament in his wrist, has had an opportunity to observe Griffin on the court and up close from the bench.
“I’m going to use a cliché, but he’s a man on a mission,” Redick said. “Again, I’ve been a Blake fan from afar. He’s better than I realized. What’s mind blowing to me is how hard he works. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that. He works on his game daily and it shows. He’s getting better. He’s playing at an elite level right now, better than anybody in the league.”