GRIFFIN NOTCHES THIRD CAREER TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Blake Griffin

LOS ANGELES – The Blake Griffin experience just vaulted to another level.

He recorded his third career triple-double Wednesday night in a 117-101 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, tallying 23 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists in 32:50.

This was different than his previous two, though, which came in the final two months of his rookie season in 2010-11. One of those occurred in a double-overtime win against the Wizards in March 2011 and he secured another on the final day of the regular season (April 13, 2011) when the Memphis Grizzlies rested several starters in anticipation of the opening round of the playoffs.

This time it seemed almost easy.  

Griffin needed fewer than 31 minutes on the court to gather his tenth rebound, which somewhat surprisingly served as the third leg of the triple-double with 6:02 remaining in the game. He made nine of his 14 shots, had a 3.67 assist-to-turnover ratio, and added a steal and a blocked shot.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Jamal Crawford said. “If you look at how efficient he is, not just the dunking, that’s just an added bonus, but everything. He’s finding people, he’s making plays and he demands a lot of attention down there. When he’s getting double teamed he’s kicking it out to our shooters. He’s making the right play all the time. He’s rebounding and covering for us.  He’s turning into a great, great all-around player.”

Griffin’s dunking ability has long caused other elements of his game to get overlooked. He leads the league with 157 and on Wednesday had three jaw-dropping slams, including a windmill dunk on a lob from Crawford where the Sixth Man of the Year candidate threw the ball between his legs before tossing it over his shoulder to a trailing Griffin; a reverse dunk after a dribble-hesitation move that cause Ekpe Udoh to stumble; and a right-handed follow dunk off a missed 3-pointer by Matt Barnes.

At the same time, Griffin also consistently created baskets for others, whether in transition or out of double teams in the post. The Clippers were 12-for-29 (41.4%) from 3-point range with four coming off feeds from the All-Star power forward.

“He was doing a good of when they came with a double [team], not hesitating, just getting it out right into the shooting pockets for guys,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He made some good passes on the break. It’s something obviously he’s capable of doing. I thought his game under control tonight. He was very productive in 32 minutes.”

The passing element of the triple-double was what Griffin seemed to take the most pride in when he fielded questions afterwards.

“Passing the ball matters to me,” said Griffin, who tallied at least seven assists for the eighth time this season. “Scoring and rebounding, they’re kind of staples. And that’s part of my game, but being able to pass and get guys open and create offense that way is important to me.”

It seemed like it could be Griffin’s night about four minutes into the game. He had five points, three rebounds and three assists at that point and had already twice dribbled end-to-end to create points during the Clippers’ 18-9 start. On one play he grabbed a defensive rebound, weaved through traffic down the center of the floor and kicked to Caron Butler for a 3-pointer in the corner. Less than two minutes later, he rejected Larry Sanders at the rim, tracked down the ball in the corner, eluded a defender on the left sideline and finished the play with a finger roll over J.J. Redick, drawing a foul in the process.

“That’s what Blake is so underrated at: his ability to handle the ball and pass the ball,” said Lamar Odom, who has 12 career triple-doubles. “I swear to you even in college, I thought because he’s so athletic that his basketball skills go unmentioned. But if you watch his eye-hand coordination, if you watch him work out, dribbling the basketball, his skill level is very high. I mean, right now I think he’s one of the most complete basketball players in the game.”

Griffin’s triple-double was the 34th in the NBA this season, but only the fifth where a player played 33 minutes or fewer. It is the first by a Clippers player since Griffin’s last one on April 13, 2011.

He has come close several times this season before Wednesday. He was two rebounds short in Portland on Jan. 26, two assists away six days before that at Golden State, and three assists shy in November against the Hawks.

Asked about finally reaching double digits in all three necessary categories, Griffin said, “It’s exciting. I’m excited, but at the same time without my teammates hitting those shots it doesn’t happen.”