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With the playoffs on the horizon, Blake Griffin is carving out a role

The veteran has filled in as the first big man off the bench in the last three games.

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Blake Griffin is a square peg in a round hole. On a roster littered with young, versatile players, the 33-year-old (who will celebrate a birthday on this road trip) doesn’t exactly fit the mold. To a man. the coaching staff and his teammates have all commended and credited Griffin for his leadership and presence in the locker room, but during this most recent bounce back stretch, he’s made an impact on the floor, too.

“His emotional, mental, and physical toughness,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said of what Griffin brings to the court. “His ability to keep plays alive, his ability to make the toughness plays whether it’s charges, deflections, loose balls, offensive rebounds, screening. There are certain people — and he’s one of them — that when he’s on the floor, everybody else is better. Because of his experience and toughness and the way he plays, he does that.”

Griffin was a +5 in fifteen minutes against the Hawks with a 8 points, 5 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block. Boston has been 9.5 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor for the season and while he may not be filling the stat sheet with points anymore, it’s the energy-lifting plays that create momentum and of course, everybody loves him:

“I give Blake a lot of credit, a guy that was a superstar in this league, multiple All-Stars, All-NBA, who was really at the top,” Jayson Tatum said of Griffin. “Whether it was through injuries or whatever, has really taken on a different role and it’s been really unique to see his attitude everyday. He doesn’t play for two weeks [with] with certain guys out, he might play four or five games in a row.”

Over the last three games including a start in Cleveland, Griffin has been the first option big behind Al Horford. It hasn’t been Luke Kornet who has played the sixth most games (56) or (mysteriously) Grant Williams or the newly-acquired Mike Muscala. It’s been the 13-year veteran who is getting playing time with Robert Williams nursing a hamstring injury. It would be one thing if these were the doldrums of December. No, with just over a dozen games left in the regular season, it’s Blake Griffin getting in some run before the playoffs.

Tatum also credited Griffin for taking the first bus to the arena and playing pickup with some of the end-of-bench players to keep up their cardio on off-days. If Griffin continues his strong play into April, he might be taking the second bus when the postseason arrives.

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