By Rich Levine
LOS ANGELES With all of Bostons trade deadline drama, you almost forgot that Saturdays meeting with the Clippers would feature a date with the 6-foot-10, 21-year-old, car-leaping monster whos taken the NBA by storm. But Doc Rivers didnt.
Hes been spectacular, Rivers said of Clippers rookie Blake Griffin before the game. "I think people miss the best part of his game when theyre watching ESPN dunks. Everybodys missing his great passes. Hes already one of the best passing bigs in the league, and he does it all the time. Hes an extremely unselfish kid. Hes very talented. Hes already improved his jump shot. Hes starting to make that up to 15 feet. You know hes just to keep getting better.
But the Celtics didnt want him to get better on their watch. They set out to make things difficult for the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year; make him work for and earn everything. And for the most part they were successful.
Griffin finished with 21 points and 11 boards, but was kept under wraps when it mattered most in Bostons 99-92 win.
We were fine with it, Rivers said of Griffins numbers. He had a couple fast-break buckets which we dont like for anybody, I dont care who it is. Other than that, especially down the stretch, we made it difficult for him to get the catch and made him catch it off the block, which is what we wanted to do. He actually hit some jump shots. Hes a terrific player.
At the heart of the Celtics defensive attack on Griffin was (not surprisingly) Kevin Garnett, who rode the rookie all night, muscled him on the block, battled him for position and who, because of injuries and deadline moves, didnt have much help in the process. But Garnett was up to the task, and will have to be until the new look Cs develop some new chemistry,
Until the ONeal brothers get back, we probably will (have to lean more on Garnett), Rivers said. Hes not going to play any more minutes, though. But Nenad (Krstic) is going to be fine there. Its just him not knowing the schemes. He just didnt know it. But he picks it up quickly. He got one in the second half. Its just going to take some time.
After the win, Garnett typically a man of few postgame words, dished some praise on the explosive rookie: Hes strong, very powerful, Garnett said. Very gifted, a lot of potential. Hes gonna be a real good player.
And for his part, Griffin had plenty of great things to say about the Cs:
The thing about them is how well they move the ball and play off each other, said Griffin. You can tell theyve been playing together for a while. Thats tough to beat when teams are moving the ball and everyone knows their role, everybodys getting shots and everybodys rotating defensively.
Griffin will get another shot at Garnett and the Celtics when he makes his first trip to the Garden on March 9