It took less than a minute of game action on Sunday for the increasingly contentious Serge Ibaka-Blake Griffin rivalry to produce another interesting chapter.
As Ibaka was driven back by a powerful Griffin post-up on the Clippers’ second possession, he ran into the oncoming Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins’ force pushed Ibaka back toward Griffin, leading a flailing Ibaka to nail Griffin with a backhand to the groin area. Griffin went down in obvious pain, but there was no foul called. Postgame, Ibaka contended that it was accidental.
“No punch thrown, man,” Ibaka said. “Both players, we just like to play physical. If you see the replay, it wasn’t a punch thrown. It was like in traffic, and one of my teammates push me from the back, then I try to fall and he was up already.”
Griffin said he didn’t know whether the shot was accidental or not: “I can’t get into his head. I’m not going to try.”
Last season, on this same court, Ibaka nailed Griffin with a low-blow, which earned him a $25,000 fine. But that one was clearly intentional. This one didn’t seem to be.
But regardless, NBA officials plan to review this latest play.
“I don’t worry about all that,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, noting that he hadn’t seen the replay. “I love the physical play. I think they should just keep playing physical, let them play like that. If a guy throws a punch, the league will take care of it.”