HOUSTON — Blake Griffin seems to relish telling his critics how wrong they are about the perceived holes in his game.
On Thursday night the Clippers power forward put the clamps on Dallas All-Star Dirk Nowitzki during the most important moments in the Clippers' 109-103 win over the Mavericks.
Nowitzki missed all six of his fourth-quarter shot attempts, one of which was blocked by Griffin, who also pressured Nowitzki into throwing the ball into the backcourt for a turnover with 38.9 seconds left and the scored tied.
After the game it was clear Griffin wanted to let the media know that he can do more than just dunk the ball and that he has as improved as a defender.
"The past few years or so, all I've ever heard is everything I can't do," Griffin said. "I take pride in those things people say I can't do, and [defense,] that's one of them. There's a long list. . . .
"So, I just use that as motivation and try to get better. Obviously there are areas I need to get better in, but at the same time, I think sometimes people get a little carried away."
And with that, Griffin weaved his way past the media throng and walked away.
The night before at New Orleans, Griffin went head-to-head with the Pelicans' All-Star second-year power forward Anthony Davis and was solid on defense. Griffin's play helped slow down Davis, who had 16 points on five-for-19 shooting.
"We talk about all the other stuff — his offense and passing — [but] Blake the last two games . . . his defense has been off the charts," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said.
Griffin has impressed enough basketball pundits that he's generating some support in the discussion about NBA most-valuable-player candidates.
The obvious favorites for the award this season are Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Miami's LeBron James.
But Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle has taken notice of Griffin's play.
"He's having a monster year," Carlisle said. "And he's playing at a high level. Those are usually the two ingredients that get you in that [MVP] conversation. I mean, it's legit. . . . I don't think he'll win it. But I think him being in the conversation is legit."
Griffin is averaging 24.3 points per game this season, sixth-best in the NBA. He had scored at least 20 points in 30 consecutive games before the streak ended against the Mavericks.
Forward Danny Granger will miss Saturday's game at Houston because of a strained left hamstring.