|The mean Greg Stiemsma makes an appearance||03.13.12 at 1:42 pm ET|
LOS ANGELES — You wouldn’t think that Blake Griffin and Greg Stiemsma would have a history. After all, Griffin is the former No. 1 overall pick, a Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-Star and a national name. Prior to this season, Stiemsma was essentially a nameless vagabond, floating through the European circuit with occasional appearances in the D-League.
But back in 2009 at the Las Vegas summer league, Stiemsma made an impression when he blocked Griffin twice. Perhaps that was on Griffin’s mind on Monday night when the Celtics took on the Clippers in a game that was described as physical and chippy. Things had already become heated when Stiemsma checked in late in the first quarter.
Then Griffin got a dunk and made sure to put the ball in Stiemsma’s chest. The center flipped it back and both players received double technicals. A few possessions later, Stiemsma came over from the weakside and responded with a blocked shot. Griffin retaliated with a breathtaking lob dunk, one of the few seen Monday night in lob city. But Stiemsma didn’t back down, burying a 20-footer the next time down the court.
“Maybe for him,” Stiemsma said when asked about their summer league past. “I didn’t have any hard feeling coming in. Right out of the gate it kind of started right when I got in. Whatever it was, I can leave things on the floor. Whatever it is, I’m not worried about it.
Griffin scored 24 points and had nine rebounds. Stiemsma had two points and two boards, but he gave the Celtics 20 minutes and a big presence in a game where Brandon Bass spent the night in foul trouble.
“That was the mean Stiemsma today,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It was great to see that. He got the blocked shot. We’re going to have to work on his trash talk a little bit. But it was good to see. We needed that.”
“You can’t play mad all the time, but you’re not going to back down from anybody either,” Stiemsma said. “I don’t care what position or situation they’re in. If I come in and play physical and take a shot to the mouth, a couple of shots to the head if it helps us win, I’ll do it.”
With Chris Wilcox (heart issues) and Jermaine O’Neal (wrist) away from the team, Stiemsma is the only backup big man on the roster. He’s been dealing with a foot injury of his own and he once again left the arena in a walking boot. Rivers acknowledged before the game that Stiemsma is playing hurt, but there’s no other choice right now.
“I get fired up when I have a couple of bumps and bruises in the morning,” he said.
His teammates have taken note of the 26-year-old’s toughness, both mentally and physically.
“You’ve got to have some kind of toughness to make this team,” Kevin Garnett said. “Not only that, but to make this team and sustain it. He’s not a pushover. He’s quiet but he’s not a pushover by any means.”
For Stiemsma, tough play is nothing new. He’s endured far worse during a nomadic career that has taken him around the world and put him in truly hostile environments. He once played a game in an empty arena in Turkey after security cleared the building following unrest in the stands.
“This was almost a European style feel where a few shots were thrown here and there,” Stiemsma said. “That’s where the game went tonight. We pushed through it. We got back to what we do well and came out with a win.”
He did have one concern after it was over, however after picking up his first technical foul. “I’m hoping someone will chip in with the fine,” he said.
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