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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blake Griffin Puts League on Notice: He's Only Getting Better

LOS ANGELES -- This combination in the Clippers' locker room was not a good one.

Not the players, mind you. They were a cohesive unit, teaming up for yet another win on Monday afternoon at the Staples Center, where they downed Indiana 114-107 to make it 10 wins in their last 14 games and came within a few miles of the eighth spot in the Western Conference (5 1/2 games behind Portland before their game on Monday night).

No, the pairing that didn't work was the one between Blake Griffin and the television reporter who lost the grip on her microphone.

As Griffin cooled his blazing-hot feet in a bucket of ice beneath him, the unstoppable rookie forward who had just scored a career-high, Clippers rookie record and NBA season-high 47 points on a remarkable 19 of 24 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds cringed as the electronic device fell oh-so close to the waters below.

"I thought I was going to get electrocuted," he said nervously after she caught the microphone.

As if he's not electrifying enough on his own.            

One day after his second-half surge helped down the Lakers and continue this most-unexpected of turnarounds, Griffin dominated in a way no one could have seen coming back in October.

Blake the Beast, the Cyborg, the Blake-Show, the dunk machine whose aerial feats and athletic prowess have energized the league at large, couldn't be called a one-trick punisher this time around. Only one of his 19 field goals was a dunk, the others coming on an impressive array of flush mid-range jumpers, bank shots and brutish post moves executed to perfection.

The Clippers needed them all, and so he responded with an 11-point fourth quarter in which he hit four of five from the field. His put-back layup and ensuing free throw put them up 102-92 with 5:26 to go, with Griffin pausing for effect afterward as the "MVP" chants washed over him and he soaked in the love of the crowd. His right hook-shot going right through the lane put them up 109-104. His pump-fake and duck-under in the post put them up 114-107 and effectively ended the game with 1:01 remaining.

As if the All-Star campaign wasn't going well enough already, this multi-dimensional version of Griffin took it to a whole new level.

"It's cool, because all I can hear is, 'Oh, he can dunk, he can jump high,' but people question the other skills," said Griffin, who is averaging 21.9 points and 12.7 rebounds. "And as a basketball player, you take that personally. I heard stuff said after (Sunday night's) game ..."

And by "stuff," I asked Griffin, did he perhaps mean the comments of Pau Gasol following Sunday's game in which the Lakers forward shared his view that Griffin "hasn't' developed a lot of moves" and tries to "go over your back or shove you or jump through you"?

"Yeah, so I guess I've got to have more games where I'm shooting the ball and doing stuff like that, but those things don't bother me," he responded. "I know I have to work on my skills. I know I have to work on certain things, but it's not going to come all at one time, so I can't just stop doing what I feel makes me successful just because of what somebody says or just because of what somebody decides to say after a game."

The Gasol element wasn't the only carryover effect from the day before, as Griffin continued this entertaining trend of agitating veterans. James Posey took the baton from Lamar Odom, who had sparked a physical round of do-si-do and four ejections on Sunday after taking exception to Griffin's fight-to-the-finish exuberance. Posey was assigned to guard Griffin late, then grew frustrated when his presence had no positive effect.

The two players had one tense exchange in the third quarter, when Posey appeared to get hit by a Griffin body part and showed his disapproval by puffing his chest and circling Griffin before he went to the line. By the time Griffin had closed strong in the win, and Posey nor any other Pacers players could do anything to stop him, the animosity remained after the buzzer sounded.

"Yeah, I've got a thing for rubbing people the wrong way I guess"
-- Blake Griffin
Griffin walked some 15 feet out of his way to offer Posey a conciliatory fist-pound, only to see the 13-year veteran shrug him off and walk the other way. Griffin smirked, then stared at the back of Posey's jersey as they went their separate ways.

"Yeah, I've got a thing for rubbing people the wrong way I guess," Griffin said. "I didn't think we got into it. I know he came in to guard me, so I don't know. Sometimes you're frustrated after games like that. Maybe next time he'll give me a high-five."

Posey, who didn't play in the first half but had 10 second-half points, admitted he made a conscious choice to avoid Griffin's gesture.

"Yeah, he tried to (offer a dap, as the kids say)," Posey said. "I declined. You already gave us 40-something (points), and I'm going to shake (your hand) and say, 'Thank you for that'? You know what I'm saying? Nah, I'm good."

As is Griffin, whose electrifying play won't likely be short-circuited anytime soon.

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