Blake Griffin approached the Brooklyn Nets' second round series looking to have a bigger impact against the Milwaukee Bucks' front line, with the veteran big man stepping up from the jump.
In their 115-107 Game 1 win, Griffin was a force on both ends, pouring in 18 points, a season-high 14 rebounds, three assists, and two steals on 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-9 from the 3-point line.
He hustled for rebounds, played solid defence and had the Barclays Center crowd in a frenzy in the second quarter as he dove on the floor, wrestling Bobby Portis for a loose ball.
#NBAPlayoffs intensity 😤 pic.twitter.com/60KiOyAjJw- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 6, 2021
"When I was coming to this team, one of the things I felt like I could bring was physicality and some plays like that," Griffin said post-game.
"At this point, being a part of something bigger than yourself and trying to win takes precedence, so you do whatever it takes."
His 14 boards are the most rebounds he's had in a playoff game since 2015 as he battled inside with Brook Lopez, while spacing the floor on the other end with his shooting from beyond the arc, opening up the Nets' offence.
Blake throws it down 💪 pic.twitter.com/Q3d503ZOA3- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 6, 2021
Griffin had a limited impact in the first round against the Boston Celtics, averaging just 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, despite starting all five games.
With Boston's switching defence taking him out of the game, the matchup against Milwaukee's' size will make Griffin a key cog in the second round.
"Anytime we lose a player, somebody has to step up, but it was collective, we said that in the huddle," Griffin added.
"I had a feeling coming into this series, a little different than last series, different defensive schemes and little bit more opportunity, obviously a bigger team so playing a little bit more minutes."
Kevin Durant (29 points, 10 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (25 points, eight assists) took charge of the Nets' offence, but it was Griffin's hustle plays and dirty work that made the difference.
"When he plays like that it just ignites the whole crowd, ignites our whole team, diving on the floor, playing tough and big as a center," Durant said following the win.
The Nets will look to Griffin to continue his play in the series, especially with James Harden under an injury cloud after exiting Game 1 after just 43 seconds with a hamstring injury.
With plenty of playoff experience on his resume, Griffin is more than capable as a third option.
"He's been in this league for a long time and we just expect him to do just a lot of the little things that get us in position to be up ahead so we just want him to stay the same and continue to demand greatness out of himself," Irving said.
"Being around a lot of other veteran players I know it eases his mind, were very direct with him in terms of communication so when we're able to do that and look eye to eye and go out and execute, I feel like we're in a better place when Blake's locked in like that."
The teams will face off again in Brooklyn, with Game 2 scheduled for Monday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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