Blake Griffin might have come up small at times in the fourth quarter of some key losses in Round 1, but let’s be real, the guy has been great in the playoffs and is putting up some historic numbers. How many players in NBA history can say they had a triple-double in a Game 7? How many players in NBA history can say that they’ve had back-to-back triple-doubles in the playoffs?
I’ll give you a hint on both of those counts: not many.
The points and rebounds have been impressive. His 25.4 points per game and 13.4 rebounds per game both best his most prolific regular seasons or previous playoff runs. He’s scoring better than he ever has before, and he’s hitting the boards much more than he did in the regular season.
That being said, the way he’s creating offense for his teammates is on another level, and it leaves him in historic company when it comes to power forwards and post players in terms of distributing the basketball.
Before Wednesday’s night’s loss to the Rockets, Griffin was handing out a robust 8.1 assists per game during this playoff run. That number was third-best among all players this postseason, trailing only James Harden and John Wall. After notching a meager four assists in Game 2 on Wednesday, that number drops to 7.7 assists per game, which allowed teammate Chris Paul to leap him despite missing the last two games. Jeff Teague also jumped him in the list of assist leaders.
None of those players consistently work out of the post, even if they see minutes at power forwards in some lineups. In terms of legitimate big men who spend more time in the paint than they do on the perimeter, we have to look to Al Horford, Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah, who are dishing out 4.5, 4.4 and 4.3 assists per game this postseason, respectively. Griffin’s main matchup in the first round, the ultimate teammate Tim Duncan, averaged 3.3 assists.
In fact, Duncan has never averaged more than 5.3 assists over the course of one postseason. Griffin’s number, if it holds up for the rest of the playoffs, will hold up against some of the great big men of all time. Kevin Garnett once averaged 8.8 dimes in the 2000 playoffs, but that came in only four games as his Timberwolves were knocked out in the first round by a 3-1 margin. He never averaged more than 5.1 again.
Wilt Chamberlain averaged 9.0 in the 1966-67 postseason, a 15-game run that culminated in his only championship, and Griffin’s current numbers are better per 36 minutes. Wilt never averaged more than 6.5 assists in another postseason.
Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley never averaged more than 6.3 for a playoff run. Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon never even managed an even 5.0. For other all-time greats like Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Patrick Ewing, George Mikan and Bob Pettit, Griffin is currently doubling their best numbers. For contemporaries Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire, he’s quadrupling their career-best postseason rates.
Assist numbers don’t make or break the player, and they don’t guarantee the Clippers anything. Griffin has been the hero and the villain during the playoff run so far. He had some ugly turnovers late in games in Round 1, and he simply wasn’t playing his best basketball in the fourth quarter early on in that series. Still, he’s shooting well from the field and scoring at a career-high pace. While Paul drew the attention for his series-winning shot with one healthy leg, Griffin was marvelous as well in Game 7 against the Spurs, and he carried that performance over into Game 1 against the Rockets without Paul.
The assist numbers may just be a feather in his cap by the time this postseason is said and done, but Griffin is carrying the offense as both a scorer and a creator. Triple-doubles are cool, and counting assists are fun, but just because Wilt won a championship passing the ball at a career-high rate doesn’t mean the same will happen for Blake. At the same time, if he’s able to keep the offense flowing and find easy looks for his teammates while working primarily out of the post, the Clippers are a dangerous team in the West, and it makes Griffin one tough man to defend.