Years from now, when the story is informed of Blake Griffin’s efficiency for the Brooklyn Nets in Recreation 1 of their Jap Convention semi-final collection towards Milwaukee, the story will get taller.
So let’s get this into the everlasting document proper now. No, Griffin hadn’t been retired from the NBA for his lack of ability to carry out when he joined the Nets in March, even when he did so on a veteran’s minimal contract. It wasn’t all three of Brooklyn’s present All-Stars who received damage within the opening minute at Barclays Middle (although dropping one, James Harden, was ominous sufficient). And in reality, Griffin didn’t push himself off a hospital gurney after double hip-replacement surgical procedure to beat the Bucks and lightweight up the league and social media together with his throwback sport.
What he did was spectacular sufficient, scoring 18 factors with a game-best 14 rebounds in 35 minutes. Griffin seemingly spent as a lot time scratching, rolling and clawing down on the ground as he did working upright on Saturday night time. And when he did stand tall, he went 4-of-9 on three-pointers, a defense-deflating fee for Milwaukee on an evening their shooters have been 6-of-30 on three-pointers.
The six-time All-Star ahead had such an affect in staking Brooklyn to their 1-0 collection lead after a knock-around common season that a little bit incredulity was comprehensible. No want for hyperbole, although, simply because some doubted when he left Detroit in March if the previous slam dunk champ who famously leaped over a automobile might even leap anymore.
Griffin wasn’t shelved, he wasn’t carried out. However he was off the radar for some time. If he took folks’s breath away together with his play within the Nets’ 115-107 victory, that was solely partly on them.
“For 2 years, I did not hear a lot positivity, and possibly rightfully so,” Griffin mentioned after posting his first playoff double-double since 2016 with the Clippers. “But it surely’s fairly loopy how shortly it occurs. I am simply grateful for this opportunity.”
The No 1 draft pick of Oklahoma in 2009 and Rookie of the Yr in 2011 went to 5 straight All-Star video games as a member of the Clippers, averaging 21.6 factors and 9.3 rebounds over eight seasons. Traded to Detroit midway by way of 2017-18 – simply months after signing a five-year, $173m deal presumably to maintain him in Los Angeles for his profession – Griffin made yet one more All-Star look, served as a veteran affect and took his sport outdoors and the Pistons to a 2019 playoff look whereas coping with a meniscus tear in his left knee.
He lasted solely 18 video games in 2019-20, present process surgical procedure in January earlier than the pandemic hit. This season, Detroit went all-in on their rebuild and shut Griffin down midway by way of February earlier than understanding a contract buyout.
Brooklyn already was bursting on the seams with star energy when Griffin signed on, so there was no want – even when he might have – for him to hunt for photographs or in any other case drive himself into the offense, not with Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving round.
OK, so these guys solely performed collectively for eight video games all season as a result of assorted accidents and absences. However Griffin knew the plan and located a method to match anyway.
He targeted on a journeyman team-mate from Detroit who received to the Nets 4 months earlier than he did and located a distinct segment.
“What Bruce Brown has carried out for the workforce all 12 months was big,” Griffin mentioned. “I used to be watching that and I felt like, that is one other gap that may very well be stuffed.”
That is why, as large as Griffin’s 18 factors in Recreation 1 have been, it was the best way he wrestled for free balls, forcing a pair of leap balls and displaying the Nets, the Bucks, and the Brooklyn crowd his dedication to issues aside from stats that stood out most.
“After I was coming to this workforce, one of many issues I felt I might carry was some physicality and a few performs like that,” Griffin mentioned. “When you might have a workforce as dynamic as this workforce with three scorers who can rating from virtually anyplace – and Joe [Harris] who additionally, it looks as if each shot he takes goes in – you type of should fill these these holes.”
Griffin did a few of that with the ball, too, rolling for a dunk in a pick-and-roll with Durant and getting factors off the glass. Then there was his accuracy from deep, with 4 three-pointers after going 0-for-2 complete within the first spherical towards Boston.
The Celtics performed an aggressive switching protection, which did not enable Griffin many appears to be like from outdoors. In actual fact, he solely scored 24 factors within the collection. Milwaukee choose to drop again, which had Brook Lopez out of attain when he even tried to contest Griffin’s threes.
Nets coach Steve Nash mentioned: “Make-and-miss is vital, after all, in its finality. However that willingness to combat and claw and do the soiled work has been unbelievable in Blake since he received right here. His power and toughness and the way a lot he cares have been on show.”
It was such a stunning, throwback efficiency by Griffin that, even after Harden departed after 43 seconds together with his sore proper hamstring, Brooklyn had three superstars on the ground in any case.