Against Purdue in the NIT Pre-Season Tip final. I'll let ESPN do the game-capping.
40 minutes, 5-13 from the field, 8-13 from the line, 21 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers.
Griffin has the ability to score proficiently with his back to the basket, showing off an ability to spin off defenders to get into the lane, using his explosiveness and strength to out-quick and over-power most collegiate defenders. He doesn't have a traditional hook shot, but with his spin moves renders it largely unnecessary, as Griffin sometimes uses multiple spin moves in the same drive, maintaining impressive body control despite his size. He uses the spin move, which he worked on extensively in the off season, particularly well when he catches the ball out on the perimeter with his back to the basket, feeling the defender and spinning the opposite direction while varying the speed at which he makes the decision, sometimes looking for double teams and sometimes spinning almost directly after the catch. His ability to do so can often effectively negate any advantage the defender acquired by forcing him to catch the ball far out from the basket.
One of the most intriguing parts of Griffin's game is his ball-handling ability. Several times Griffin lead the break after the rebound, displaying an ability to handle the ball in traffic with a variety of behind the back and through the legs moves. The same ability serves him well in the half court, particularly when catching the ball at the top of the circle. Although Griffin has hit both of his three-point attempts this season, he's reluctant to shoot the three, and opponents don't respect it. When Griffin put the ball on the floor, however, he forced the defender to come out and guard him, with Griffin using his quickness to beat his defender, generally going left, finishing on a reverse layup on one play.
OU goes through long stretches during which they fail to get Griffin touches. The two most important factors for OU's offense both involve Griffin: making open three-pointers and getting Griffin touches nearly every time down the floor. The former follows the later. Griffin is far from a black hole on offense, which means that the OU ofense must run through him. Capel doesn't get Griffin involved in many pick and rolls, likely because Griffin doesn't present much of a threat popping out for a shot, as he didn't take a single jump shot besides a 10-12 foot turn around fallaway bank shot that he didn't have the proper angle for, but appears to be a move he practices. With the mechanics of his shooting stroke, Griffin will become a solid jump shooter at some point in his NBA career, likely sooner than later. Right now, however, that doesn't appear to be a significant part of his game.
Free throw shooting
After shooting 59% from the free throw line as a freshman, Griffin worked hard in the summer to improve that aspect of his game. That work has not yet translated into gains early in the season, with Griffin still only shooting 60% from the line, sometimes finding his rhythm (11-12 against Davidson and 10-14 against UAB) and sometimes struggilng mightily (5-14 against American, 4-8 against MVSU, 6-12 against Gardner Webb).
Griffin has a pure stroke, keeping his right elbow perfectly perpendicular to the flloor. He has a smooth release, finishing his follow through. What lets Griffin down is inconsistency with his legs. He sometimes bends and straightens with good rhythm that leaves him late in games, in turn leaving the ball on the front of the rim. It was particularly a problem against Purdue late, as Griffin missed three free throws that could have won the game in regulation. Even though his conditioning has improved, Jeff Capel has asked him to play 38 minutes or more in each of the last four games, leaving Griffin with dead legs late in the game.
Purdue's defensive scheme
The Boilermakers brought a help defender into the lane to deny post-entry passes from the perimeter and were successful in limiting Griffin's touches. They also brought double teams on post and high-post catches, sometimes bringing the additional defender on the catch and sometimes on the bounce. To Griffin's credit, he made good decisions, looking for the double team on the catch and finding cutters several times, accounting for his assists, one pass coming off the dribble. He could have had several more, as he gave his shooters opportunities, passing crosscourt from the baseline on one play and crosscourt from the high post on another. Austin Johnson got an open look after an entry pass from his perimeter defender left to double team Griffin. He also made one exceptional outlet pass 80+ feet a la Kevin Love, seeing his streaking teammate as soon as he turned after rebounding the ball. With Griffin's ability to take defenders one on one with his back to the basket or off the dribble, bringing double teams are a basic and probably indispensable tenet of defending Griffin.
Tenacious is the most apt and overused cliche for a rebounder of Griffin's ilk. With Griffin, it's probably an understatement. Even amidst the proficient scoring numbers for Griffin in the early season, his rebounding numbers are eye-staggering. A game-by-game breakdown: 18, 19, 21, 21, 15, 21. Against Purdue, he rebounded 39% of their misses, while also snagging 19% of OU's misses. In fact, he grabbed 28% of all the missed shots in the game. He had seven offensive rebounds against Purdue, pursuing several long rebounds after getting his teammates open threes. He does so by pursuing the ball outside of his area and elevating in traffic, grabbing the ball and going over other players, whether it's a teammate or not. When rebounding or catching high passes in the lane, Griffin resembles an elite wide receiver challenging smaller defenders for the ball in traffic, looking as if he simply wants the ball more than anyone else.
If you listen to a broadcast of an OU basketball game, it's nearly guaranteed that you will hear the story about how the Griffin brothers spent the summer in California working out eight hours a day and running on the beach. Sounds like training in a Rocky movie. As much help as it might have done (they don't have exact numbers for how much weight he has lost), Griffin still struggles a bit with his conditioning. OU asks him to play major minutes and exert a lot of effort. It showed in some late free throws left on the front of a rim, as mentioned earlier.
Griffin is not a poor defender, capable of blocking shots on the ball or coming from the weakside (he's not a high volume or natural shot blocker, however). The minutes he plays do impact his defense, as he often doesn't show well on screens late in the game, allowing opposing players to turn the corner and get to the rim. He does sometimes appear to be going through the motions, perhaps lacking the fire and intensity on defense that characterize his rebounding. Tired legs make it hard to evaluate his lateral quickness, but his defensive posture could use work, as he often finds himself with his knees locked--poor defensive posture. Any game plan for the Sooners should involve extensive use of the pick and roll utilizing Griffin's man to set the pick and will likely yield several easy baskets over the course of the game.
Teams need to throw different looks at Griffin, sometimes doubling on the catch and sometimes on the dribble. Ideally, the double team should come from the defender of the other big on the floor, particularly Blake's brother Taylor, who doesn't have a consistent jump shot, although the big left open can easily dive to the basket and Blake has the vision to find them. Opposing coaches have some flexibility with leaving OU shooters open on the perimeter to double down on Griffin, as the team shoots only 29% from beyond the arc. Denying entry passes is important to limiting touches, which involves a combination of ball pressure and sound post defense, with help from other defenders to clog the passing lanes. OU's offense sometimes aids, as they fail to get Griffin touches for stretches of the game.
Griffin isn't a threat to shoot jump shots, so defenders have no excuses for giving up dribble drives to the basket on perimeter catches. Defenders must play sound positional defense to minimize the impact of Griffin's spin moves, although most defenders strong enough to guard Griffin don't have the lateral quickness to match those moves.
All in all, defending Oklahoma means containing Griffin as much as possible, but most of all, not allowing other players to beat you, particularly perimeter shooters like Cade Davis, who can get hot and feast on the double teams thrown at their teammate. It's easy to see why NBA scouts are drooling over the Oklahoma big man, who will likely be the first pick in the NBA draft come next June.
Until then, he will be terrorizing opposing defenses and causing nightmares for opposing coaches trying to game plan for him.