Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 2/3/12
LOS ANGELES The NBA DictionaryMain Street edition went back to rewrite Thursday night when the term Mozgov'd (verb; to be used as a poster prop, or otherwise humiliated, on a signature Blake Griffin, or likewise thunderous, dunk) got, well, Mozgov'd. When this entry was made a year ago, a poor unsuspecting Russian rookie, Timofey Mozgov, was used as a 7-foot-1 launching pad on Griffin's way to the basket and on his ascendancy to commercial stardom as the league's most spectacular, feared and YouTubed dunker. That reputation was cemented earlier this week when Griffin provided another Oh-No-He-Didn't clip, doing to the menacing Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins what he had done to the feckless Mozgov. This latest episode with Perkins made it seem as if Griffin's ubiquitous Kia ad where he is towed in a jump suit, cape and roller skates off a ramp, catches a basketball shot out of a cannon, and dunks on what looks to be a 30-foot hoop was not simply charming hyperbole. It was art rather plausibly imitating life. It has already spawned a T-shirt, with The Poster Child headlining an image of his dunk on Perkins, and also spurred talk of whether it was the greatest dunk ever. Not that anybody thought to ask Julius Erving (see Michael Cooper), Michael Jordan (see Patrick Ewing), Shawn Kemp (see any of the early 90s Golden State Warriors) or anyone else who had dunked before Twitter. The ensuing evisceration of Perkins on TV, the internet and social media also appeared to accelerate a curious trend: Nobody wants to star in the next T-shirt or Blake Show clip. Rather than get posterized, the Utah Jazz simply got out of Griffin's way Wednesday night, when he dunked on four of the Clippers first six baskets en route to a 31-point, 14-rebound performance in Los Angeles' victory. Thursday night began as more of the same against Denver, with Griffin confirming his selection as an All-Star starter with 18 points at halftime, thanks to 8-of-10 shooting that was aided by four dunks none of them contested with anything resembling courage. Then, early in the second half, Griffin came off a pick near the top of the key with a clear path to the basket. After one hard dribble, Griffin held the ball aloft in his right hand, his sights set on the rim, when who should be arriving as the help defender but Mozgov, who was dealt by the Knicks to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony deal. But a funny thing happened on the way to film school. Instead of planting himself in front of Griffin, as he did last year, Mozgov perhaps with Andre Miller's halftime directive to put Griffin on his keister planted Griffin, coming across his body with a hard but clean foul. After that, neither Griffin nor the game was the same. Griffin missed the two free throws, one of which was an airball, and took only two shots the rest of the quarter, spending the entire fourth quarter on the bench as the Nuggets, who trailed by 13 in the first half, rolled to a 112-91 victory. "It rattled me a little bit," Griffin said. Asked if he flashed back to the dunk over Mozgov as he approached the rim, Griffin chuckled. "No," he said. "I just turned the corner. I didn't even pay attention to who it was. I just went up to finish and that was it." At the moment, Griffin was not so charmed. He picked himself up and glared at Mozgov, who had immediately raised his right hand, accepted a subtle hand slap from teammate Nene, who had gotten lost on the screen, and tried not to make eye contact with Griffin. "It was not because I want to kill him or something," Mozgov said. "I was trying to block hard, that's all. Nothing bad." If the play unnerved Griffin, it unleashed Mozgov. He had eight points in the quarter, three rebounds and a block of Caron Butler. And as if the tables had not been turned already, they were late in the quarter when Mozgov forced Griffin to foul him when he rose to the basket intending to dunk. "That's something that people talk about, there's a psychology to physical play," Denver coach George Karl said. "I think the aggressive team gains the advantage." That was clear on Thursday in other ways, when the Clippers' other All-Star starter, Chris Paul, was hounded into discomfort in the second half by Arron Afflalo. The Nuggets avenged a home loss to the Clippers on Sunday, and with a 15-7 record, second to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference, are providing an interesting case study in the wake of trading Anthony: whether you can win an NBA championship with a deep roster chocked with capable, coachable players but without a certifiable superstar? Earlier in the evening, Karl mused about why so many players seem reticent about stepping in front of Griffin, if not to try blocking his shot then at least drawing a charge. "Coaches used to be able to put a bounty on taking a charge on a guy like that, but I guess it's illegal now because it's a salary cap circumvention," said Karl, who compared Griffin to Kemp, whom he coached in Seattle. "I'm on a poster of David Thompson dunking on me and I'm kind of proud of it. Guys didn't dunk on me because they knew I'd step underneath them." Mozgov has almost certainly given life to an old-school tack in diminishing Griffin, whose play is often as unrelenting as it is athletic. There was the kerfuffle last season with Lamar Odom, who objected to Griffin's muscling him out of the way on a free throw in the final, otherwise meaningless, seconds. There is also Griffin's obsession this season with knocking away any shots near his own basket after a whistle blows, one which almost sparked a ruckus with the Lakers. Clippers guard Mo Williams, who had no qualms about Mozgov's foul, said it is important for the NBA to take care of players like Griffin. "It's still a game at the end of the day and you don't want to injure a guy," Williams said. "He's blessed to be athletic don't use it against him and be jealous and want to take him out of the air. Blake does a good job of not taunting. He just does it and goes about his business. The league needs to do something about it, to protect him. Some guys will and have tried to take him out of the air violently." The mood was not so serious for the Nuggets. In fact, there was cackling on the bench when Griffin shot an airball on his first free throw after being followed by Mozgov, something Al Harrington said he had predicted. Before the game, Kosta Koufas chuckled when a reporter approached Mozgov at the next stall to talk about the infamous dunk. Mozgov took the questions, like the dunk itself, in stride. He shrugged at the rekindled interest in the clip since Griffin's dunk on Perkins. "It's not that I'm mad at him or anything like that," he said. "I don't think like that. Nobody likes it when somebody dunks on him. It's not a great feeling." And not one that he was used to. "Some people in Russia can dunk, but not like this," Mozgov said. "For me, it was impossible because I can jump. After my dunk, everybody said it was unbelievable. Nobody thinks it can be better, then two nights ago . . . "Who will be next?" That is a question that is sure to keep fans filling arenas and tuning into national broadcasts to watch the Clippers. It may also haunt some players who consider whether to challenge Griffin, not wanting to be immortalized on a T-shirt, a poster or anything viral. But for the brave few, there is now an interesting new twist: walking away from a midair confrontation with Griffin with your dignity intact can be summed up simply, concisely and wholly unexpectedly: You Mosgov'd him.
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