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Clippers’ Blake Griffin a force on offense, impressive on defense

Blake Griffin
Clippers forward Blake Griffin tries to save a loose ball during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

The speed, quickness, athleticism and skill level is what has made Blake Griffin such a unique player at his power forward position.

Both Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and Minnesota Coach Tom Thibodeau had a difficult time finding another power forward similar to Griffin.

But Rivers and Thibodeau both concluded that Griffin has made the most strides defensively.

On Saturday night against the Timberwolves, the story was all about Griffin’s all-around game putting him in the history books.

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By scoring 20 points, Griffin now has 9,000 points over his seven-year NBA career. He became the fastest player to have at least 9,000 points, 4,000 rebounds and 1,500 assists since Hall of Famer Larry Bird, who did it in 398 games.

Griffin, who has a total of 4,025 rebounds and 1,693 assists, accomplished his feat in 420 games.

“There’s not a lot of guys built to play like Blake, with his power and speed,” Rivers said about the 6-10, 251-pound Griffin. “He’s a little bit of Karl Malone, a little bit of the next guy. He has attributes of a lot of people.”

But with the Clippers playing the best defense in the NBA, Griffin has been equal to the task.

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“Yeah, that’s been his biggest improvement,” Rivers said. “Offense, he is what he is. He’s just going to keep getting better. But defensively, he can make a bigger step and I think he’s doing that. He has such a high basketball IQ and when he uses it in a defensive way, it makes us really good. He can sniff out coverages and sets from the other team as well as anybody. And when he’s engaged with DJ [DeAndre Jordan], and both of them are using their voices, it makes us really good defensively.”

Thibodeau said it’s Griffin’s combination of speed, athleticism and power that allows him to stand out.

“And he’s really worked extremely hard on his shooting,” Thibodeau said. “Initially, you played off him a little more, but the way he shoots the ball, you have to be up on him. … Now, defensively, he’s really grown. You can see the multiple effort plays. It’s not just his individual defense. His team defense is excellent now, too.”

Etc.

Clippers reserve forward Wesley Johnson didn’t play because of a bruised left heel suffered during Friday night’s game at Oklahoma City. Johnson is listed as day-to-day.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner


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