Dwight Howard Takes Blake Griffin to School in Magic Win
Dwight Howard had a lot to do with that.
The future of the NBA will have to wait his turn.
Griffin may be the hottest young star in the NBA – a veritable highlight tape on most nights – but he was all but grounded by Howard in the Magic's 101-85 victory over the Clippers.
Griffin came into the game brimming with confidence – the only player in the league averaging at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and three assists – but he left looking like just another big man who got chewed up by Howard, the two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year.
Although Howard wasn't officially guarding the Clippers power forward – that job went to Ryan Anderson – Howard was never far away, always there with a double-team whenever Griffin made a move to the basket.
"He is a physical guy, the most athletic big man in the league," Griffin said quietly after a rare off night." It's a different type of matchup against him than anyone else in the league. I have to watch the film and look for areas where I can improve. You can learn from any game. I just have to move forward.
Griffin had 12 rebounds, but he managed just 10 points and one assist. Two of his four field goals were dunks, but he made only four of 12 shots. He came into the game shooting 51.9 percent, averaging 22 points and 12.8 rebounds.
Howard, meanwhile, led the Magic to victory with 22 points and 20 rebounds, his fifth 20/20 game this season and the 31st game of his career. Howard dominated both ends of the court against the Clippers. Griffin, meanwhile, looked out of sync offensively and was hardly a factor Tuesday. He had no highlights to show this time. The Clippers led at halftime, but mostly because Baron Davis was playing so well.
Griffin had been so spectacular most of this season that the coaches voted him as a reserve onto the Western Conference All-Star team. He will be the first rookie to be in the All-Star Game since Yao Ming in 2003.
He is considered a runaway for the Rookie of the Year Award, although he is far from a typical rookie. He was the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft, but missed the entire season with a knee injury, allowing him a second chance at a rookie season. Rarely, though, has he looked like a newbie.
He is the first rookie since Allen Iverson to have multiple 40-point games. He has had seven games – most in the league – with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, proving both his power and versatility time and again.
"I can't say I expected to be averaging the kind of numbers I am. It's all about opportunities,'' Griffin said. "Sitting out last season helped me prepare for this, but nothing beats the experience of being out there. I honest feel that if I had been out there last season, I'd be a better player than I am now.''
On Tuesday, he wasn't even close to Howard, who will be playing in his fifth consecutive All-Star Game. Griffin may be as much or more athletic than Howard, but he lacks the size and strength to play him around the basket.
"He [Griffin] really didn't get a chance to do a whole lot,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "It was Dwight a lot of the time. He was right there.''