Blake Griffin says teams are allowed to be more physical with him than with others

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Blake Griffin had a tough outing against the Suns on Friday, and had to earn every single one of his 17 points and seven rebounds. Those numbers had little impact on the game, however, and his 4-of-14 shooting through three quarters were a true indication of just how much of a struggle it was for him on this night offensively.

Griffin’s issues can be attributed (at least in part) to the defensive game plan the Suns put together, along with the effort of Channing Frye, who made sure to stay between Griffin and the rim all night long while bothering him with his 6’11” frame.

Defensive ability aside, Frye’s physicality might have bothered Griffin even more — not because Griffin can’t handle it, of course. But mainly, because at many times, what Frye was doing appeared to be excessive, and deserving of a whistle from the officials.

From the first possession on, the physicality was noticeable. Put simply, Frye was allowed to push, grab, and hold Griffin more than what is normally considered to be acceptable. Now, the officiating crew was largely lax with the whistles on both sides all game long, but the fact remains that the Suns slowed Griffin by basically checking him when he got close to the rim, pushing him out when he tried to gain low block position, and making sure that contact was made whenever a shot was attempted.

Frye played over 35 minutes, and picked up just four personal fouls; Griffin shot just five free throws, and one of those came just before the final buzzer sounded. On one occasion, Frye literally grabbed Griffin around the neck from behind to stop him from shooting after he had established deep inside position.

No flagrant foul was called; apparently, it was just a run-of-the-mill foul. Two free throws were given, but no apologies.

This is one way to slow Blake Griffin and the Clippers, but it requires the complicity of the referees — which Friday night’s crew seemed more than happy to provide. It seems, though, as if this is becoming the norm around the league. Griffin is such a physical presence that referees are having trouble officiating him properly — or, at the very least, they are letting defenders regularly get away with murder to try to even Griffin’s genetic advantage.

And Griffin has noticed.

“Yeah, for sure,” was Griffin’s nodding response, when I asked him if teams were being allowed to play a little extra-physical against him defensively. “For sure. Guys are allowed to really bang against me, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

It obviously worked Friday in Phoenix. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t seem to think it was an issue at all, and intimated that Blake (and the rest of the Clippers’ front line) preferred the physical way.

“Nah, Blake likes that,” he said. “They’re going to take the punishment more than Blake. He likes the physical contact, and with Kenyon, Reggie, and DJ up front that’s fine for us.”

Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, and DeAndre Jordan are all fine, physical, front-line players. But none are relied upon offensively as much as Griffin is, so the physicality badge that Del Negro seems to want his team to wear with honor really only affects Griffin on that end of the floor.

Besides, Griffin said, Del Negro is only partially correct. Blake only likes the physical play up to a certain point.

“Yeah, I mean, I like physical play, but sometimes it’s a little more than others,” he said. “And sometimes it goes from being physical to really kind of doing more damage than just bumping and stuff like that. But that’s on me, I’ve still got to play through that — everybody gets bumped, everybody gets fouled. I’ve got to do a better job of finishing plays and making shots.”

Griffin isn’t making any excuses, so we won’t either. But it’s clear that he feels he’s treated differently than others when it comes to the way teams are allowed to defend him physically. He may just have a point.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.