DALLAS -- Don't look to Brendan Haywood's line score -- zero points, four rebounds, two blocks -- to judge his impact on the Mavericks' 112-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers and rookie sensation Blake Griffin.
As integral as Tyson Chandler (21 points) and J.J. Barea (25 points) were to sparking life into a struggling offense, Haywood, the Mavs' maligned backup center, came up equally as large at the other end guarding the NBA's newest human highlight film. Dallas started to force the ball out of Griffin's hands with double teams in the second half. They'd mix up coverages to keep the man-child guessing and when they didn't double, Haywood was draping every bit of his dripping, 7-foot, 263-pound body over Griffin.
In the first half, Haywood extended his defense and deflected Griffin's jumper.
"He’s so talented and athletic," Haywood said, "the biggest thing is you want to keep a body on him at all times and force him to take jumpers and contest those, and take away a lot of the easy highlight dunks."
The most glaring example came with 45 seconds left in the third quarter. Griffin got the ball on the block, made a quick spin move before the double-team could get to him and launched himself for a potential power dunk that would have led off SportsCenter for the next 24-hour cycle, at least. Only Haywood put a stop to it with his long arms and oversized hands, grabbing Griffin's outstretched arm as he went up, sending the rookie crashing to the floor. Griffin fell on his left elbow, left the game for a bit and upon his return had slipped on a protective sleeve.
Hard foul or dirty play? The refs hit Haywood with a Flagrant 1, but Haywood, quite naturally, disagreed.
"No, that’s not a flagrant foul. I feel the NBA should give my money back for that one," Haywood said. "It was one of those plays; I just grabbed his arm. He’s just so athletic and strong that he was still trying to finish the play and he ends up basically not protecting himself."
Haywood then gave the rook a piece of advice.
"On those type of plays he has to realize, 'All right, I got fouled, just throw it at the rim and come down,'" Haywood said. "Protect yourself for the next play. Every play can't be a dunk-contest dunk."
The Mavs had forged ahead at the time of the foul, 79-75, but they felt the play energized them with some nastiness that's dissipated since Caron Butler's injury. The play sparked some of the defensive attitude the Mavs displayed during their 24-5 start to the season as they headed into a fourth quarter that continued to be physical.
From the 7:19 mark of the third quarter when Haywood replaced Chandler to the time of the flagrant foul, the Mavs outscored the Clippers, 16-5, and Haywood held Griffin to 0-of-2 from the floor. After the foul, the Mavs ran away with the game for their third win in four games.
"The play of the game -- you hate to say it -- was 'Wood throwing down Blake Griffin, getting a flagrant and making a statement," Mavs guard Jason Terry said.
'Wood hasn't made many statements this season. He's been pushed into the shadows by his own lackluster showings and by Chandler, who was having a monster game -- 21 points in 17 minutes -- only to have it foiled by foul trouble. Chandler's hard-luck enabled Haywood to put in 24 good minutes, enough to keep him off the elliptical machine for his usual post-game conditioning work. It was his longest stint with Chandler in the lineup since logging 24 minutes on Dec. 4 at Sacramento.
"You know what, I was excited. I think this was one of his best games so far this year," Chandler said. "Sometimes the stat sheet doesn’t show everything that a guy is out there doing. The defense that he played against Blake, his weakside defense, his rebounding, keeping balls alive, giving us extra shots, his physical presence, it was a huge game for him tonight."
Griffin got off to a highlight-reel start with 12 points and five boards in the first quarter, primarily against Chandler, as the Clippers jumped out to a 33-25 lead after one and then extended it to 40-25 barely two minutes into the second quarter. But, Griffin put up only 10 more points in the final three quarters on 3-of-8 shooting, and six rebounds. He had seven points on 2-of-7 shooting and four boards in the second half when Haywood nearly matched Griffin's 16 minutes with 15.
Despite not scoring, Haywood finished a team-best plus-22, meaning Dallas outscored L.A. by 22 points with Haywood on the floor, a rarity this season to be sure.
"He still ended with 22 [points] and 11 [rebounds], so it’s not like he had a bad night," Haywood said of Blake. "I felt like I blocked a shot or two of his and contested some more. I felt I did a decent job on him."