PATTEN PENDING: GRIFFIN’S FIRST PLAYER OF THE MONTH WON’T BE LAST

February may be best known as the month of love, but in 2014 its heart belonged to Blake Griffin.

Griffin was named the Western Conference Player of the Month for February on Wednesday evening, an award he has never captured before. However, after what was arguably the most dominant stretch of his career, there are likely more in the future.

He was just the second player to average at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a calendar month this season. Kevin Love has done so twice, including February. But Griffin carried the Clippers to a 7-4 record, playing four games without Chris Paul (shoulder) and nine without J.J. Redick (back). He shot 54.5 percent over 11 games, better than anyone in the league with at least 120 made field goals. He dished out 3.8 assists and accounted for more than a third of the Clippers’ total offense.

His 38-point performance at the All-Star Game on Feb. 16 did not count towards his player of the month selection, but it put Griffin at the center of the basketball universe. He was on a run of six-straight games with 25 points and the Clippers upended the Trail Blazers heading into the break behind Griffin’s 36 points, 10 rebounds and near perfection from the foul line.

Griffin’s emergence was one of the reasons that anyone I asked about him in New Orleans gushed. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said it was a “joy” to be around him, LaMarcus Aldridge suggested Griffin was an MVP candidate and Love, the man Griffin is most oft compared against, spoke in glowing terms.

“He’s been great,” Love said during All-Star media day. “He’s been a guy that’s elevated his game to the next level. Chris Paul went out, and he took kind of the reins of the team and got all of those veteran players to play together. He was the star on the team throughout that entire time.”

And even in Paul’s return from a separated shoulder that cost him 18 games, Griffin has remained the focal point of the offense. In their 104-96 win over the Suns on Tuesday, Griffin knocked down a turnaround bank shot with 1:55 to go that stymied a Phoenix rally. Overall, Griffin is 23-of-47 (48.9 percent) in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter this season. He had five so-called clutch baskets in February, including a 3-pointer that brought the Clippers to within three against the Heat and a key hoop down the stretch in the Clippers’ five-point win over Portland.

Griffin’s critics seemed to dissipate over the course of February as well. News outlets penned stories of his “growth” and interview requests were at what seemed like an all-time high. It was though a contingent of media that fell in love with Griffin three years ago during his Rookie of the Year campaign had returned. There couldn’t have been a more apropos month to do so.