Why NBA opponents love to hate Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin has drawn a league-high 498 fouls and improved his free throw shooting to 69.5 percent. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

As the Los Angeles Clippers stack up victories, winning their ninth straight game on Wednesday, Blake Griffin has spent the past week stockpiling enemies.

On Monday, the all-star forward took an elbow to the chin from Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker, who was subsequently suspended for one game. Two days later, following the Clippers’ victory against Golden State, Griffin was confronted by Warriors forward Jermaine O’Neal outside the locker room. The two reportedly engaged in a heated conversation before being broken up by teammates, replaying a scene that had transpired during the game when O’Neal was whistled for a technical foul after yelling in Griffin’s direction during the fourth quarter.

Add this to the forearm to the neck Griffin received from Miami’s Mario Chalmers in November, the flagrant elbow to the head he took from Golden State’s Draymond Green in December and another flagrant blow to the head from Indiana’s David West in January and it begs the question: Why do so many players seem to hate Griffin?

In some ways, Griffin has done his part to frustrate opponents. Not only did Wednesday’s 30-point, 15-rebound performance mark the 24th straight game that Griffin has scored at least 20 points, it joined the fourth-year forward with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley as the only players to accumulate 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists while shooting at least 50 percent from the field.

Griffin is also averaging a career-high 24.4 points this season and has increased his free throw percentage to 69.5 percent, an improvement that serves well for a player who has drawn a league-high 498 fouls, according to NBA.com/stats.

Most personal fouls drawn in 2013-14*

Player (Team) Games Personal fouls Personal fouls drawn
Blake Griffin (LAC) 66 225 498
Dwight Howard (HOU) 65 220 445
DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 56 214 434
Kevin Durant (OKC) 64 148 417
Kevin Love (MIN) 60 113 401
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 63 179 358
LeBron James (MIA) 60 101 349
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 61 145 328
James Harden (HOU) 57 137 320
Kyle Lowry (TOR) 63 214 308
Goran Dragic (PHX) 60 160 306

Through March 13, 2014; Source: NBA.com/stats with SAP

In the past, opponents gave Griffin room to shoot, preferring a jump shot rather than give him a lane to attempt one of his posterizing dunks. But after shooting below the league average from most areas of the floor during his first three seasons, Griffin has shot at or above the league average this year in nine of the 14 areas tracked by NBA.com’s shot chart.

Last season Griffin shot just 135 for 383 (35.2 percent) on mid-range shots but through 66 games this season he has knocked down those 156 of 404 such attempts for a 38.6 percent clip. By comparison, Minnesota’s Kevin Love is shooting 124 for 306 (40.5 percent) from those areas.

As a result, teams have employed a more physical defensive approach toward Griffin in hopes of not only keeping him outside the paint but also curbing his dunking ability.

Many of Griffin’s confrontations have happened after he gets tangled up while vying for a rebound, another area in which the forward excels. Despite playing alongside DeAndre Jordan, the NBA’s leading rebounder, Griffin recovers 64.8 percent of his total rebounding opportunities (good for eighth in the league) and 40.7 of his contested rebounding opportunities, according to NBA.com’s player tracking stats.

Though the schemes have frustrated Griffin at times, resulting in 13 technical fouls, they’ve done little to deter his impact in the Clippers’ high-octane offense. Griffin ranks fourth in the league with 143 dunks and shoots 64 percent around the rim.

No one enjoys being dunked on, and as Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman demonstrated during his career, a knack for sly rebounding maneuvers can quickly tick off opponents. Perhaps that’s why Griffin, like Rodman, has become a star that teammates love to play with and opponents hate to play against.

“I told Blake during that altercation that it’s crazy being his teammate and seeing every night the different fouls and the different things that he takes,” Clippers guard Chris Paul told ESPN.com after Monday’s win against Phoenix. “He sacrifices so much for us. He could have easily punched back and got to fighting, but he didn’t. I don’t know how he does it.”

Wins recorded by the Spurs trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker through Wednesday, tying them with Lakers legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Magic Johnson for second all-time among NBA trios. Boston’s Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish rank first with 540 wins.

Wins for the Nets in three games against the two-time defending champion Heat. The Bulls are the only other team to have beaten Miami more than once this season.

“He should be defensive player of the year. He’s done a great job with these guys. They’ve been winning a lot just on his energy and effort, his kind of determination and toughness. Those are all qualities everybody appreciates.

— Rockets Coach Kevin McHale to reporters on the Bulls’ Joakim Noah. Noah was averaging 12.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks for the Chicago Bulls entering Thursday’s games.

“It’s my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses for it. Right? You got to get things done. It’s the same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there. You got to be able to figure out a way to do both.”

— Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in reference to the team’s struggles. The Lakers entered Thursday tied for the worst record in the Western Conference at 22-42, and Bryant has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after playing just six games because of injuries to his Achilles’ tendon and left knee.

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.



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