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Blake Griffin's dunk launches larger Clippers' discussion

The tomahawk dunk over Kendrick Perkins is a huge talking point, but it comes in the context of big win over NBA-leading Oklahoma City that showed the potential and firepower of the Clippers.

January 31, 2012|By Broderick Turner

It was the stuff of legends, but then again Blake Griffin's dunking exploits already are legendary and they just continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Just ask Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins, who was on the receiving end of such a furious tomahawk dunk by Griffin during the Clippers-Thunder game Monday that it set the Twitter and YouTube world on a viral blaze.

But before that dunk is analyzed, there is a burning question to ask:

Are the Clippers that good?

It bears an answer because the Clippers just thoroughly beat a Thunder team with the best record (16-4) in the NBA and because Oklahoma City has a superstar in Kevin Durant and an All-Star in former UCLA standout Russell Westbrook. But the Clippers sprinted to an 18-point halftime lead and Griffin's signature dunk in the third quarter was the highlight of a convincing 112-100 win over the Thunder.

The Clippers also defeated a Nuggets team Sunday in Denver with the second-best record in the Western Conference.

"I think the process is definitely starting," Clippers veteran guard Chauncey Billups said after the win over the Thunder. "You can kind of see the potential that we have as a team."

The Clippers, with a 12-6 record and winners of three consecutive games, are leading the Pacific Division over the Lakers and have the third-best record in the West.

But the win over the Thunder showed the potential and firepower the Clippers have.

They are averaging 98.5 points per game, fifth-best in the NBA through Monday, are shooting 45.9% from the field (eighth-best), and 37.1% from three-point range, ranking them ninth.

And the Clippers' three young starters are off to strong starts:

Griffin is averaging 21.1 points per game, 10th best in the NBA, with 11 double-doubles (points and rebounds), sixth best, and 47 dunks (third best).

Point guard Chris Paul is averaging 8.9 assists, third best in the league, and he has the sixth-best player efficiency rating — that includes categories such as minutes played, points per game, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks.

Center DeAndre Jordan is averaging 3.06 blocks per game, second best in the NBA, plus 42 dunks.

With Paul dishing out assists, and Griffin and Jordan attacking the rim, the Clippers' new nickname, Lob City, fits.

"We've got the whole squad together," Billups said. "I think roles are starting to be defined. A lot of times you can't really say what a person's role is going to be. You've got to get out there and go through some games and go through some losses and figure it out."

Obviously, there are still some areas for the Clippers to improve on.

The Clippers are allowing 96.5 points per game, the ninth most in the league, and are averaging a paltry 40.3 rebounds per game, which ranks them 26th out of 30 NBA teams.

"We still have things we have to get better at," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "This isn't a finished product by any stretch of the imagination."

Now, back to that Griffin dunk over Perkins.

The play started when Griffin set a pick for Paul, who drew a double team. Griffin streaked into the lane and Paul hit him with a bounce pass. Griffin rose up, putting his left hand on Perkins' shoulder, and like a slingshot forcefully slammed the ball down with his right hand while being fouled by the burly center.

The crowd at Staples Center erupted, and the play was shown frequently on the video screen, reminding fans of a similar monster dunk by Griffin last season over then-Knicks center Timofey Mozgov.

After the game, Griffin talked about the play. "It's the timing of when I got the pass, the late rotation" by the defense, he said. "It just kind of came together."

Griffin was matter of fact. But word of his latest spectacular dunk instantly spread across the Internet as NBA players tweeted about the play. Here are some of their comments on Twitter:

Magic Johnson: "The @blakegriffin dunk tonight over Perkins made me realize that he's one of the best in-game dunkers in @NBA history"

LeBron James: "Dunk of the Year!! @Blake Griffin just dunked on Kendrick Perkins so hard!! Wow!! I guess I'm #2 now."

Toronto center-forward Amir Johnson: "OMG did you see that dunk blake did … I literally fell out the bed when I seen that dunk"

Golden State forward-center David Lee: "I never tweet about opponents highlight plays but that Blake Griffin dunk was crazy"

Charlotte guard Matt Carroll: "Who just saw @Blake Griffin smash on K. Perkins head?!?!?!? Wow!!!"

Milwaukee guard Darington Hobson: "Jesus Jesus lawd lawd have mercy.. How blake griffin how do u continue to do that … it's not fair no more… Like what do you say to Perk after that happens ?"

When some of Griffin's teammates watched the highlights they were equally giddy as they tweeted.

Caron Butler: "Did yall see that dunk!?"

Chris Paul: "WoW!!! Just saw @Blake Griffin dunk from 2nite...WHAT IN THE WORLD!!! Something is wrong with that guy..."

But let's allow Perkins to have the last words on Griffin's dunk, since the 6-10 Thunder center had the best view.

"Well, it happens," Perkins said after the game. "At the end of the day, if you're a shot-blocker, you're going to get dunked on…Obviously, I wish I wasn't in it, but it was a great play that he made."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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