Los Angeles Clippers v Charlotte Bobcats

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.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.