Blake Griffin swiped an errant pass with the Clippers locked in a tight game with the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. He had nothing but open court ahead of him and a sellout crowd rose to its feet anticipation of what was to come.
How many revolutions would he make?
How high would he leap?
What kind sort of degree of difficulty would be involved?
Griffin disappointed all of the fans, including Shaquille O’Neal, who was seated in a courtside seat. Griffin jumped no higher than he needed to and dropped the ball easily through the basket as 19,060 fans groaned in disappointment.
“I was going to dunk it,” Griffin said of what might be the tamest of all his dunks gave the Clippers a 63-60 lead with 42.4 seconds left in the third quarter. “I kind of just let it go. I was wondering if I’d hear some boos, and the loudest was from Shaq.”
Talk about a tough audience.
“Yeah, I booed him,” O’Neal, a former NBA center who is now a TV commentator, said not long after Griffin scored a team-leading 16 points in the Clippers’ 89-76 victory. “I paid $1,400 for those seats. I want to see some (exciting plays).”
No question, Griffin likes to throw down crowd-pleasing dunks, but he also wants to preserve his body for battles to come. So, he took the easy route, and gave himself and his ongoing battle with a sore neck and a burst bursa sac in his right elbow a break.
Plus, there was more at stake for Griffin and the Clippers at that point in the game. Griffin had just given the Clippers a 61-60 lead with a short jumper. His dunk made it 63-60. Soon enough, the Clippers were up 85-65 in the fourth quarter.
Griffin played only 1 minute, 11 seconds in the final quarter with the Clippers well ahead and just 30:07 for the game. Griffin is averaging 32.1 minutes through the season’s first seven games, down from 36.2 minutes last season.
Asked about his injuries, Griffin said, “Neck’s good, elbow’s better.”