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2021 NBA Playoffs – Blake Griffin needed to wait six years to really feel a way of glory once more

Months in the past, when Blake Griffin got here to phrases that he was going to forego $13.3 million to get out of his contract with the Detroit Pistons, he’d come to phrases with the truth that he was not a franchise participant in physique or thoughts.

However that didn’t imply he may not be a contributing participant in spirit.

He felt he had one thing left to provide, perhaps a few years of it if he is fortunate, which he hasn’t been fairly often if we’re being sincere. For that value, in each {dollars} and ego, what he wished was happiness and to play significant basketball once more.

On Saturday, Griffin performed in a convention semifinal playoff sport for the primary time in six years. It felt even longer, as these days as a number one man of the Lob Metropolis Clippers really feel like they solely exist in YouTube highlights.

He performed like he’d longed for it, flinging his physique round and enjoying with the sting the Brooklyn Nets might want to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 4 instances. Griffin’s 18 factors, 14 rebounds and important hustle performs that factored in Nets edging the Bucks, 115-107.

Late within the fourth quarter with the sport in hand, the gang of 15,750 at Barclays Heart gave Griffin a standing ovation after he fouled out and retreated to the bench. It’d been awhile since he’d felt one thing like that, too.

“For 2 years, I did not hear a lot positivity and possibly rightfully so,” Griffin stated. “It is fairly loopy how loopy it occurred so I am simply grateful for this opportunity and the chance.”

The final time Griffin was at this stage he was maybe on the peak of his sport again in 2015, at age 25 with 5 straight All-Star appearances and his well being intact. He’d completed third within the MVP voting the season earlier than, and within the convention semifinals in opposition to the Houston Rockets he was a pure drive, averaging 24 factors, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. He was at this exceptional candy spot, the place his bodily presents had been mixing with abilities he’d honed.

On this Sport 1 six years later, Griffin was principally counting on these abilities he’d discovered. His bodily presents are largely diminished however he has turn out to be a greater shooter as he confirmed by nailing 4 3s because the Bucks gave him house. And his position on the staff referred to as for him to battle within the trenches, which he did endlessly for 35 minutes.

“It is stunning to see him work and protect and get a possibility,” Nets coach Steve Nash stated. “He clearly was nice tonight and his vitality and battle was excellent.”

A prickly actuality about Griffin, those that had been round him over the past 5 years say, is that he wasn’t an excellent teammate at instances. It wasn’t the one purpose the Clippers traded him, his harm historical past and worrisome contact had been increased on the record, nevertheless it was one among them. The headline got here when he punched out the Clippers’ equipment manager and broke his hand, however beneath the floor there have been extra incidents with each teammates and coaches.

A part of the mission when he got here to Brooklyn was to revive respect from teammates. With ones like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the one room for him was that he fall into a task and present management by not simply accepting it, however excelling in it.

In his first weeks with the staff, it wasn’t the Corridor of Famers he shared the locker room who impressed Griffin. It was 24-year-old teammate Bruce Brown, a man who got here into the league as a guard and ended up enjoying heart at instances, as he regarded for a task to slide into that will assist the group.

That’s what Griffin did in Sport 1, a great distance from the 2015 celebrity and even the 2019 All-Star. However his contributions had been precisely what the Nets want on this collection, the place they’re outmanned within the center and will probably be underneath fixed assault. Milwaukee nonetheless scored 72 factors within the paint, the third-highest quantity within the playoffs within the final 25 years.

Griffin is aware of there’s extra challenges forward, notably with the uncertainty of Harden’s hamstring harm, however he additionally is aware of the place he suits. Being there this late within the season and this late in his profession has him in a spot he is wished for thus lengthy. In a manner he perhaps by no means anticipated.

“Being part of one thing larger than your self takes priority,” Griffin stated. “You do no matter it takes.”

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