1. Rising Up: Getting Inside An Epic Jam
LOS ANGELES -- There was so much to discuss in this Thunder-Clippers game, and then there was only one thing.
So forget about the Clippers beating the top two teams in the Western Conference (Oklahoma City and Denver) on back-to-back nights. Or their barrage of four 3-pointers in a 51-second span in the second quarter. Or Chris Paul's sublime 26-point, 14-assist night.
It's what happened after Paul's pass to Griffin just more than three minutes into the third quarter that everyone will remember much longer than the 112-100 Clipper victory. The official play by play innocuously described it as "Griffin 3' Driving Slam Dunk (Paul)" at the 8:52 mark. It's kind of like classifying the Taj Majal as a "building."
Sure, it accounted for only two of the 212 points scored in this game, and one of the 843 field goals that Griffin has made in his career. But in Griffin's case an identity has been created strictly from moments like this. It's why he has national commercial endorsements, why tickets to Clippers games get sold, why the estimated value of the franchise has increased 6 percent to $324 million.
Just a basket? No way. It's why the NBA isn't just a bunch of basketball games. Of all of the people on the planet, only a select few have the adequate basketball skills plus the athletic ability to do this against NBA players.
After giving a series of low-key responses about the dunk, Griffin finally conceded that plays like this are different.
"Yeah, definitely," he said. "Obviously a dunk all by yourself is just one of those dunks. When somebody contests and you get the and-1, it slows it down a little bit."
Read this in slow-motion to better appreciate it: Griffin got the ball, took off from the edge of the lane on the left side, burst into the air as if he had jumped on a trampoline, then dunked over, on, through, in a late-arriving Perkins.
DeAndre Jordan was the first responder, running over to wrap his arms around Griffin as if to prevent him from doing any further damage to humanity.
"I was just shocked," Jordan said. "I didn't know what to do, so I just grabbed him." Griffin said Jordan squeezed him so hard he couldn't breathe. Veterans Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and Paul played it cooler, strolling over to calmly give Griffin five.
Paul called it "one of the most amazing things I've ever seen" but felt obligated to "keep everyone locked in and let that one go."
The immediate effect neither energized the Clippers nor demoralized the Thunder; the two teams exchanged buckets for the next three minutes.
The strangest thing was how calmly some of the participants and observers described it.
"CP commands so much attention out there, he came off the pick and roll and hit me in stride," Griffin said. "Fortunately, it went in."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said: "You're going to see things like that once in a while because of his aggressiveness and the way he attacks the basket."
No, you see rainbows once in a while because of the right combination of atmospheric conditions. This is different. It might happen once in a season -- although the list of such victims just doubled, from the lonely Timofey Mozgov to the tandem of Mozgov and Perkins. As great as the verb "Mozgoved" sounds, this is the new standard for getting dunked on, particularly if Griffin is the dunker.
So how did it feel to get Perkinsed? After Thunder coach Scott Brooks had lamented the defensive effort and Kevin Durant blamed himself for shooting too much (even though Russell Westbrook's 26 shoots eclipsed his own 23), Perkins emerged from the showers and took a seat in the locker room almost devoid of his Oklahoma City teammates, sat down before a small group of reporters and calmly discussed his place on the wrong side of history.
"Well, it happens," he said. "At the end of the day, if you're a shot-blocker, you're going to get dunked on. It was a great play that he made. Obviously, I wish I wasn't in it, but it was a great play that he made.
"It was a clean dunk-on. I was just trying to stop him from getting to the rim. I didn't know what happened. I was just trying to get to the rotation. Our defensive coverage broke down."
He was much more bothered by his own team's issues.
"I know one thing about it is, if we've got plans on winning a title it's called sacrifice," Perkins said. "I just came off a team [the Boston Celtics] that played with three Hall of Famers that didn't mind sacrificing, didn't mind taking a back seat. In order to win, sometimes you've got to sacrifice. You can win games and do that, but in order to get a ring, you've got to sacrifice."
There are many more games to come, a playoffs to grind through, issues to be resolved. Will the Thunder display the maturity to advance one stage deeper than last season and reach the NBA Finals? Will Griffin master the simple act of free throws to the degree he seems to overcome gravity?
Those are types of the basketball basics that will determine the championship. For this one moment on one night of a lockout-chopped season, it was time to revel in the extraordinary Griffin dunk.
"It was really, literally unbelievable," Billups said. "Seriously, when I'd seen it, I think me and James Harden at the same time were just, like, 'Oh my goodness. Wow.' That was crazy."
Yes, sometimes crazy just happens in the NBA.
2. Before Blake Jam, A Memorable Barrage
LOS ANGELES -- In a game managed by tireless preparation, thick playbooks and knowledgeable coaching staffs, there are moments in the NBA guided by beautiful chaos.
Before it was upstaged by Blake Griffin's monstrous pruning of Kendrick Perkins in the third quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers put together one of the most electric 50 seconds of basketball the league has witnessed this season.
After the Oklahoma City Thunder had whittled the Clippers' 16-point lead down to six, the Clippers fired off four 3-pointers in less than a minute to build that margin to 18 headed into halftime, a run Kevin Durant said won the game for the Clips.
"It was amazing," Mo Williams said. "We were just locked in."
Williams notched two of the four 3-pointers during the spurt. The first came on a drive-and-kick from Chris Paul, the only shot during the barrage that came on an honest-to-goodness half-court possession.
"We were playing off our point guard," Caron Butler said. "He and Blake draw so much attention that we just make plays off them."
Butler was the recipient of the most selfless series after Williams stole the ball on the other end from Russell Westbrook and raced downcourt. Williams dished the ball to Paul, who quickly sent it over to Chauncey Billups, who had a wide-open shot. Billups isn't accustomed to passing up clean looks, but shuttled the ball immediately to Butler in the corner. Another triple.
"It's like, 'Who do you run to? Pick your poison,'" Billups said. "Everyone here is unselfish, so if they take me, then you shoot."
Williams, Butler and Billups aren't shy, but they're also teamed with the savviest distributor in the league. When Paul saw a scattered Thunder transition defense nowhere near Williams on the left side, Paul kicked it ahead for a Williams PUJIT (pull-up jumper in transition) -- the third.
Butler stole the Thunder inbounds pass, kicked it out to Paul, who passed it to an open Williams. When James Harden closed on Williams hard, the ball went up top to Billups, who drilled the final 3 in the shooting bonanza.
After the game, Butler spoke about the unique adrenaline rush that overtakes a unit when it assembles a run like that.
"You've played basketball for so long that you just feel the momentum changing when you go up and down," Butler said. "You feel like everything is going right. It's a certain feeling you get.
"It feels fresh," Butler said. "Really fresh"
3. Daily Dime Live Rewind
Relive and note all the chatter, memes and Photoshops of Monday's Daily Dime Live.
4. Extreme Behavior
Chris Paul, Clippers: While a certain rim-rattling teammate garnered the attention, CP3 was masterful in a 112-100 win over the Thunder. Paul shot 12-for-16 from the field en route to 26 points and 14 assists.
Hedo Turkoglu, Magic: Ball? Not here. The Magic's slide hit four games with a 74-69 loss to the Sixers. Hedo's 1-for-9 shooting night did not help a Magic team that can't find any offense outside of Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"Well, it happens. At the end of the day, if you're a shot-blocker, you're going to get dunked on. It was a great play that he made. Obviously, I wish I wasn't in it, but it was a great play that he made."
-- Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, on his posterization by Blake Griffin's famous jam.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
Dunk of the Year!! @blakegriffin just dunked on Kendrick Perkins so hard!! Wow!! I guess I'm #2 now. Move over #6— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 30, 2012
5. Ricky Road
6. NBA Video Channel
7. No Zone Need Apply
MIAMI -- On the surface, the Miami Heat's 109-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets was just a benign Monday night result, one of the league's best teams pounding one of the league's worst teams.
Buried in the clutter, however, was one of the most interesting moments of the Heat's early season. It was certainly the game's defining moment, for what it's worth. But it left head coach Erik Spoelstra uplifted, even if it was the result of mild insubordination.
Midway through the second quarter the Heat found themselves down 12 points and the Hornets found themselves shooting nearly 70 percent. Signs pointed to the Heat experiencing an energy crash after Sunday's emotional victory over the Chicago Bulls, and they were simply going to be in for a battle against a team they were heavily favored against.
Frustrated, Spoelstra stuck two fingers in the air to signal that he wanted to switch to a zone defense. He doesn't like playing zone, but he was searching for anything to slow down the Hornets' hot shooting. It is a move in the middle of the NBA coaches' handbook.
Dwyane Wade saw Spoelstra's call but rejected it flatly.
"Going to zone kind of shows that we're not ready for this team, we don't respect this team and they're just eating us alive," Wade said later. "As a captain, at that time, I just kind of vetoed it. That isn't going to happen much, but I felt we needed to be more aggressive and a zone would've made us a little lackadaisical. I felt we needed to turn it up a little bit."
8. Scoring-Optional Win
The 76ers defeated the Magic on Monday night 74-69, marking the second NBA game this season in which the winning team scored fewer than 75 points. The Lakers edged the Mavericks 73-70 on Jan. 16. Over the previous five seasons there was only one NBA regular-season game in which the victor failed to score at least 75 points: a 72-65 triumph by San Antonio at Portland on April 6, 2008.