Blake Griffin dunks on Pau Gasol
In the end, the only thing that really matters in the standings and the playoff race is that the Lakers beat the Clippers 113-108 on Wednesday, but when this game is talked about tomorrow, next week or next year, there will be only two plays fans likely will remember. Both feature Blake Griffin dunking on Pau Gasol in a manner he previously had reserved only for Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins.
The first dunk took place early in the first quarter with just 1:22 gone in the game, when Clippers guard Randy Foye missed a corner 3-pointer and Griffin leaped over Gasol's back for a dunk that sent Gasol flying out of bounds thanks to Griffin's knees, which were firmly planted in Gasol's lower back.
More Lakers-Clippers Coverage
The Lakers and the Clippers have established their identities. The Lakers are the better team, now and looking to the playoffs, J.A. Adande writes. Story
Andrew Bynum has had his issues recently. However, the big man poses a bigger problem to opponents than to his own team, Dave McMenamin writes. Story
As coach Vinny Del Negro said before Wednesday's tiebreaker, this isn't a real rivalry until the Clips win meaningful games, Kevin Arnovitz writes. Story
It was a dunk probably seen more on Twitter and YouTube after the fact because it took place during the closing minutes of the Oklahoma City Thunder-Miami Heat game, which preceded the Lakers-Clippers game on ESPN.
Those who missed the first dunk live would eventually see an encore that amazingly topped the original. It was the dunk that put Gasol in the same company as Mozgov and Perkins. With 7:55 left in the third quarter, Griffin got a bounce pass from Caron Butler, and exploded to the rim and over Gasol. Griffin's left forearm also exploded into Gasol face, sending him reeling to the ground like a fighter who had just been knocked out.
"You don't really see what happened," Gasol said. "It was quick, a hit-and-run kind of thing, right? The ball went in, I was on my ass, I woke up, I stood up and told the referee I had a f---ing forearm on my face, on my throat, and that's something that needs to be looked at. But it happened too quick. I didn't realize."
While Gasol was still trying to figure out what had happened, the entire Clippers bench was jumping up and down before spending the next couple of minutes trying to decide where Griffin's dunk on Gasol ranked on his ever-growing list of highlights.
"It was crazy," Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe said. "The bench actually tried to compare it to the Perkins dunk. They said [the one on Gasol] was better. We'll see, though. That was another YouTube highlight. ... It can definitely [throw a player off], especially when you know you're gonna be all over 'SportsCenter' tomorrow."
Gasol admitted he probably would watch the dunk, if nothing else to see what everyone, including his teammates, was talking about after the game.
"I'll probably watch it, just because," Gasol said with a smile. "I don't really have a great desire of watching it. But my teammates told me it was a pretty impressive play."
Griffin would add another dunk in the fourth quarter for good measure, but this time Gasol wisely stepped to the side and watched from a safe distance.
Of course, none of that matters after a loss, as the Clippers now sit 2½ games behind the Lakers in the standings with the Lakers holding the all-important tiebreaker if the Clippers do somehow find a way to match the Lakers' record with 12 games left in the season.
As he stood in the center of the Clippers' locker room after the game wearing a Bo Jackson T-shirt, the last thing Griffin was focused on was his poster-worthy dunks in the game.
"I hoped it would give us momentum," Griffin said. "It might have. I don't know, but we're not really thinking about that now. We're not thinking about a dunk that didn't mean anything. I have to play better than I did."
Despite finishing with 15 points and 14 rebounds, Griffin had hit only three of 10 shots outside of his two dunks midway through the third quarter and was not nearly as aggressive as he needed to be. It might have been overlooked if the Clippers had won the game but it was something Griffin talked to coaches and teammates about after the game.
"It was an exciting play," said Clippers guard Chris Paul, who finished with 22 points and 16 assists. "But at the end of the day, we lost, so who cares?"
If the Lakers and Clippers do end up facing each other in the playoffs, Gasol and the Lakers could care about Griffin's dunks and the way he and the Clippers reacted to each one.
"When you make a great play, obviously there's a lot of emotions and I understand the excitement of it," Gasol said. "But at the same time, you have to be respectful, too. Otherwise, you probably will instigate retaliation or a bad, violent reaction. So you have to be careful with that. But that's just me."