Struggling Blake Griffin had his best performance of the season in Detroit on Friday. Maybe he just needed a spirited, blue collar night against his former team, the Pistons, to break his funk.
Make it a safety helmet, a night with steel tips.
“We love that Blake brings it and gives us that physicality. He’s also a very intelligent player, so he takes the lead, fights on the glass and understands our concepts defensively,” said head coach Steve Nash, whose Nets visit Toronto on Sunday. . “He’s someone we’ve come to rely on and rely on.”
Griffin had 13 points, five boards and a fiery failure with Isaiah Stewart with 2:57 to play. Oh, and he made two huge last minute plays: first stepping up to take his second strike of the night, then making a tip that led to Kevin Durant’s game-clinching bucket with 13 seconds left.
“That tip and that charge really won the game for us,” said Durant.
The Nets celebrated Griffin on the couch with what has become a running gag between him and Joe Harris: safety helmets, steel points. And after the final buzzer, a grinning Griffin ran down the tunnel pretending to put on a helmet and those imaginary work boots.
“That started last season with me and Joe. I don’t even know why. We both took the lead in a game…like some working-class boys. So right before every game we said, ‘Hey, it’s kind of like a steel nose, helmet, lunch bucket game,’ and we’d do this stupid thing,” Griffin said. “pie [Mills] came and took some charges and he filed his membership. Joe and I have a meeting tomorrow to discuss it. But we’re good.”
Griffin came in on Friday averaging just 5.1 points on 27.3 percent of the field, shooting 4-for-24 from a 3-point range. With a back-to-back Sunday in Toronto and Monday in Chicago, the Nets are hoping Friday’s game bodes well for the struggling big man.
James Harden nearly had a dubious triple-double on Friday, with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but nine turnovers. One was particularly blatant, when Saddiq Bey poked the ball loose, but Harden didn’t go after it. That left Bey free to go the other way for an undisputed dunk.
“I think he was tired at the time and made a mistake,” Nash said. “He was in charge of it. He said he made a mistake.”
Harden led the league in both total sales (44) and sales per game (4.89) coming in on Saturday.
An ESPN report detailed racism and misogyny by Suns owner Robert Sarver. Nash was the face of that franchise for many years and said he was disheartened by the news but added that he hadn’t seen that side of his former boss personally.
“Yes, I was sorry to read [that]. That’s not my experience with Robert. But of course I’m very sensitive to all those kinds of situations. It was disappointing,” Nash said.
When asked if he had heard of Sarver’s kind of racism and sexism, he replied “No.”