Down three starters heading into the game and losing Jaylen Brown just before halftime, the Boston Celtics were left with Jayson Tatum and Boston’s role players to grind out a 106-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, and they managed to do just that behind the stellar play of Blake Griffin.
With Al Horford and Robert Williams sidelined, Griffin earned his tenth start of the season. But rather than simply fade into the background. Philadelphia forced Griffin to act as a primary scoring option - and the big man delivered.
“The same thing we’ve said all year,” head coach Joe Mazzulla told CLNS Media when asked about what a win like this says about the Celtics. “I think we go into situations like this with the utmost trust and comfortability because of our depth and the character of our guys. Payton [Pritchard], Blake, the whole crew. You can always count on them. I thought Blake did a great job giving us presence and just giving us a lift at the beginning of the game.”
Griffin nailed five three-pointers on the night, including his first three of the game - all of which were made in the first quarter. He hit three threes in under two minutes, with a Derrick White layup being the only Celtics bucket in between.
The 33-year-old veteran went on to hit two more deep balls in the third quarter, which, once again, happened in a very short span of time that swung the momentum. He ended the night with 15 points, two rebounds, and an assist.
Philadelphia left Griffin open time and time again, as it was clearly their gameplan to allow him to beat them while shutting down Tatum and Boston’s other first scoring options.
“I don’t really take it as disrespect,” Griffin said via CLNS Media. “It hurt them. That was their game plan. Obviously, Doc makes that game plan. They didn’t adjust, which has been sort of a thing. No disrespect, though.”
The fully healthy 76ers failed to account for Griffin’s shot-making, and while they managed to stop Tatum, their plan ultimately failed to earn them a win. Griffin just so happened to hit more threes in a single game than he has since December of 2020. His five three-pointers tied his mark for the fourth-most in a contest.
He got so hot that he even managed to chuck up a heat check. After the game, he admitted to regretting the shot immediately after it left his fingertips.
“[In the] second half, I definitely took a heat check,” Griffin told CLNS Media. “As I missed it, I was like, ‘ah, I probably shouldn’t have done that.’”
When Horford and Williams have missed time, the Celtics have turned to Griffin for spot starts. He doesn’t earn regular playing time, having appeared in just 23 of the team’s 55 games this year (playing 13.4 minutes per contest), but when he does play, he leaves it all out on the court.
For the most part, his role has been to play hustle defense and shoot the occasional three. But the 76ers dared him to shoot more, and Griffin made them regret him.
“Just space,” Griffin told CLNS Media when asked what he was seeing out on the floor. “I mean, honestly, when a team leaves you open like that, you just got to try to make them pay. [I was] shooting open shots all night, so it was nice to see some go through.”
This performance likely won’t end up in Griffin being a regular rotation player for the Celtics, but it does prove that, when his number is called, he’s always ready to pick up the phone.