Love, Griffin succeed with different styles
MINNEAPOLIS — One seems destined for highlight reels, the other for the top of the stats leaderboard. For one, a basket is an event — a towering dunk, the basket reverberating for seconds afterward — and for the other, it's mere routine.
Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, two of the NBA's most talented power forwards, will meet Friday night at Staples Center in what will be a faceoff between two very different offensive styles. The 8-4 Clippers are having a breakout season, while the 6-8 Timberwolves are still hoping for that kind of turnaround, and the game will be a good gauge to see how far both teams have come.
But the matchup between Griffin and Love seems almost more intriguing than the game itself. Although the two share a position, the similarities are limited. Each has seen an offensive boost from the addition of a talented new point guard this season — Ricky Rubio for Love and Chris Paul for Griffin — but beyond that, it's hard to draw comparisons.
"They just have such different games," Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. "Kevin's game… he's more of an outside shooter. He's very skilled at everything. Blake's getting better at all that, but he's just so powerful. You can't really compare the two."
Love and Griffin have known each other since high school, and they've often crossed paths in recent years as two up-and-coming NBA stars. Love said that both he and Griffin are workhorses who put up big numbers to help their teams win, and the intensity that each lends to his basketball game also carries over to their friendship.
"When we cross those lines, it's a whole different ballgame," Love said of meeting Griffin in games. "The whole friendship thing really goes through the window. I think that's kind of the way it is for most people that are very competitive. I want to win. He wants to win, so we're going to do whatever it takes."
For Love, that means leading his team in scoring by an almost ridiculous margin — he averages 25.2 points per game, and Michael Beasley, the team's next-best scorer, averages 12.9 — and being second in the league in rebounds behind Dwight Howard. For Griffin, winning means tapping into an almost brute athleticism. His name has become synonymous with jaw-dropping dunks and physicality, but Love said that his friend's style of play tends to make people overlook the solid fundamentals of his game.
For instance, despite averaging fewer points than Love, Griffin is shooting 51.7 percent from the field this season, compared to Love's 43.4 percent. And though Love is known for his ability to get to the free-throw line, Griffin has also developed a knack for drawing fouls — a fact that's obscured by his struggles to actually make those free throws.
"I think a lot of people are overlooking him as just a dunker," Love said. "I think he'll continue to keep improving. He'll make leaps and bounds. He's still… so young, not going to be in his prime anytime soon."
The key to understanding Griffin lies in realizing the full scope of his athleticism. He's one of the strongest, most explosive players in the league, but as a 22-year-old in just his second season as a pro, he hasn't fully harnessed his power. Once Griffin does come to terms with his athleticism, Love said, and it catches up to the mechanics of his basketball game, he'll be a tough player to stop.
There might be some of Love's consistency and shooting acumen in Griffin, but Luke Ridnour said that his teammate also has a bit of the flash and explosiveness that the Clippers' power forward displays in every game. Still, Love's value to the Timberwolves is as a player who can do it all, a leader on the floor who can power the offense. Sometimes flash doesn't fit well within that role.
For Adelman, comparisons between the two seem irrelevant. Each does something so different, but both are catalysts for their team's offenses and can completely alter the outcome of a game.
"I'd like to have them both," Adelman joked. "That would help us."
Dealing with Griffin won't be easy, and the Clippers are undoubtedly aware of the challenge they face in trying to contain Love. There's no way around it — these are two of the most exciting young players in the league.
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