By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON The Boston Celtics are used to playing in front of sold-out crowds at the TD Garden.
Wednesday night's 108-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was no exception.
While most came to see the Celtics defeat the Clippers, witnessing Blake Griffin up close and personal for the first time is just as enticing.
The 6-foot-10 forward has been dominating the league this season as a rookie, averaging 22.7 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
But his impact was minimal, as the Celtics limited him to 12 points and seven rebounds.
Usually Griffin's impact is felt in his play.
On Wednesday, it was more about his presence which seemed to open things for the rest of his teammates.
"He's definitely proven himself to be a man among boys," said Boston's Ray Allen. "The age that he's at, really first year in the league. A lot of people thought when he was injured, he wouldn't be as good. But he came back this year, and he showed a lot of people that he can be one of the best players if not the best player in the future in the NBA."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been impressed with Griffin's play all season.
After spending time with him during All-Star weekend, Rivers said he was even more impressed with Griffin as a person than he was about Griffin the player.
"He just seems like a solid kid," Rivers said. "For us coaches, whenever you see that, that's really nice."
In an earlier interview, Rivers talked about how a player with Griffin's ability to combine power with the ability to play above the rim, has a way of making for a miscue here and there by a point guard or whoever is trying to get him the ball.
"I was the worst lob passer in NBA history," Rivers said. "But no one knew it because I had Dominique Wilkins. You could throw the ball anywhere. Blake Griffin is more of that. All bad passes are good passes; just throw it."
Rivers said Griffin challenges the Celtics' defense in a similar fashion to Orlando's Dwight Howard.
"You gotta make him make shots over the top of you," Rivers said. "Which he's capable of making. But at least you're controlling the type of shots he gets."
Although their games are different, Rivers said Griffin's athleticism reminds him of a young David Robinson.
"But David Robinson to the second power," quipped Rivers. "He's just an unbelievable athlete."