The moment Clippers forward Blake Griffin leaped into the air, Lakers forward Pau Gasol became nothing more than a prop.
Griffin extended his left forearm into Gasol's face and threw down a powerful one-handed dunk. The momentum sent Gasol tumbling to the ground and the 18,997 at Staples Center into a frenzy.
"You don't really see what happened," Gasol recalled after the Lakers' 113-108 victory Wednesday over the Clippers. "It was quick, a hit-and-run kind of thing, right?"
It sure was.
After Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum failed to switch on a pick-and-roll, Clippers guard Caron Butler connected with Griffin on a bounce pass. As Gasol helped out from the weakside, Griffin posterized him. After falling to the ground, Gasol immediately stood up and protested the non-call to officials. But there was nothing Gasol could do as he joined what he called "the list" of opponents that appear in Griffin's dunk highlights.
"I hoped it gave us momentum," Griffin said, as his dunk cut the Lakers' lead to 73-64 with 7:54 left in the third quarter. "In the end, it might have a little bit. I don't know. But we're not really thinking about a dunk that didn't mean anything unless we come out with the win. I've got to play better."
Instead, Griffin's highlight reels and Gasol's determination contrasted style and substance.
After Randy Foye's missed three-pointer early in the first quarter, Griffin jumped over Gasol's back on a tip-back dunk. Later, Gasol blocked Griffin's six-foot jumper as the Lakers held a 98-96 lead with 6:15 remaining. Gasol's 12 points on five-of-nine shooting pales to the production of Bynum (35 points) and Bryant (31). But Gasol's two assists to Bynum and a tip-in off Ramon Sessions' missed floater late in the fourth quarter helped keep the Lakers' lead intact. Griffin's 15-point performance featured the two aforementioned highlight reel dunks, but Gasol held him to seven-of-16 shooting.
The effort proved enough for Lakers Coach Mike Brown to say "Pau played a terrific game."
The dunk was an impressive "basketball play, but two points is two points," said Bryant, who believes Griffin's dunk was clean. "He's got to deal with Pau on the other end. Pau is not going to do anything flashy or spectacular. But Pau is a tough matchup for anybody in that post."
Still, the Lakers couldn't help but marvel at Griffin's highlight reels.
Bynum turned away and winced after Griffin's dunk. Bryant joked he "would've done the same thing" if he had the chance to posterize someone. And Lakers forward Metta World Peace eagerly shared he wants Griffin to dunk on him next so he can appear in a commercial he hopes pays him at least $500,000.
Even if Griffin's dunk showed Gasol at his most vulnerable, he conceded it will be hard to resist watching the replay.
"I'll probably watch it, just because," Gasol said, smiling. "I don't really have a great desire of watching it. But my teammates told me it was a pretty impressive play."