Luc Locks Down on Blake

Throughout the past three seasons, NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Joe Johnson have all gone through fits when playing the Milwaukee Bucks.

The cause is one of the best and most underrated defenders in the NBA: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. On Monday night, Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin was added to the list.

The Bucks defeated the Clippers, 102-78, on Monday at the Bradley Center, and No. 12 provided an impact on both sides of the ball.

After averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in this, his rookie season, last night it was time for Griffin to get the nitty-gritty Luc Richard treatment.

The Bucks had planned to use a variety of looks to combat the high-flying Clipper, but when an injury took starter Ersan Ilyasova out of the game just two minutes in, the Prince was called upon to fill the void.

Griffin still neared his 20 and 10 averages, but in order score his 19 points, Luc and the Bucks forced the rookie to take 19 shots, 12 of which he misfired on.

« He’s a great defender, » Griffin said after the game.

Bucks head coach Scott Skiles was especially impressed with Luc’s defensive performance. For teams around the NBA, Griffin has proven near impossible to stop, but No. 12 did as well, or better than anyone before him, as Skiles told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

« I doubt anybody is going to guard him any better than that, 1-on-1, » Skiles said. « That guy is so big and quick, and Luc did a great job on him, no question.

« Luc has a knack laterally that a lot of people don’t have. If you put him in some sort of lateral race, I doubt he’d win too many of them. But he anticipates; he’s in a stance. That’s why he can guard people at multiple positions. And he’s got enough thickness to his body that he can battle somebody like that. »

Luc is used to the seeing big name players when on defense, but his key to success, while simple, always remains the same, as he told the MJS:

« I never let anybody out-tough or out-work me, » said No. 12 after his performance against Griffin, who finished well under his season averages in most categories. « They feed off getting dunks and throwing the ball up and stuff like that. We wanted to keep them out of the paint and make sure they took jump shots. »

Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball said it was Luc’s intangibles — things like anticipation and instincts — that made Monday’s performance stick out:

« Specifically, Mbah a Moute was able to thwart that famous Griffin spin move on a couple of occasions, poking it away before Griffin could get past him and to the hoop for one of his highlight reel jams that have so often come off spins.

« Anticipation and instincts were the words of the night when Mbah a Moute’s defense was a topic.  All of the athleticism and studying in the world can make a player a good defender, but sometimes it’s the things we can’t measure that put a player over the edge and turn him into a great defender.  Coach Skiles certainly seems to think that’s the difference for Mbah a Moute. »

Luc Richard admitted that the young forward made him bite at times, but for the most part, his defense remained right for the majority of the game:

« He got me a couple times too. Once he got me, I kind of knew what to do.  He does it so well, that it’s hard.  I kind of do a good job of reading where he’s going, knowing his moves, stuff like that.

« It’s [about] knowing what kind of player he is, what he does and it’s also instincts. A lot of times a guy can spin or do a certain move, you try to prepare for it but he does it so well that it’s hard.  But when you have good instincts, you’re able to do well. »

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com’s Eye on Basketball broke down one play where Luc, with some help from his friends, prohibited Griffin’s signature spin.

« For a while there you were starting to wonder if anything could stop Blake Griffin. And I’m not just talking NBA players. Brick walls, atomic weapons, the name of Love, we were running out of ideas as to how to slow down the superfreak. But as the Clippers continue their slide back into Clipperdom, nights like Monday night show us if you’ve got the right defender, you don’t have to be eaten alive by the monster that is Blake Griffin. »

To see Moore’s point-by-point breakdown, click here.

Luc also credited his teammates for their help on such plays:

« It’s not an easy matchup, » Mbah a Moute said. « Every time you go against a guy like that you’ve got your hands full. Our goal was just to keep him out of the paint; that’s what he does best right now. Fortunately for me, my teammates were there every time. Every time I got beat, Bogues would always come on one of his spins and the guards would come in and dig. Just our awareness defensively was really good tonight. »

NOT ALL DEFENSE

While Luc had his hands full with Griffin, it didn’t stop him from putting up a stellar offensive performance as well.

The Prince played an integral role on offense in Milwaukee’s win, scoring his third double-double in the last seven games.

No. 12 was able to get to the free-throw line effectively, shooting seven-of-nine from the stripe, and finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and an assist. But the two stats that really stuck out to Alex Boeder of Brew Hoop were point differential and turnovers, drawing Luc Richard double recognition:

+27. Luc Mbah a Moute’s differential, best of all.

« This is the player. The player who hauls in more than half (4) of your offensive rebounds, the player whose defensive prowess is never quantified statistically (1 steal, 0 blocks), the player who plays 38 minutes without a turnover or missing a shot (he missed only a 40-footer at the first quarter buzzer), the player who defends and frustrates and tugs at the other team’s star player, every team’s star player, even as his own home crowd is cheering for that star player (add Blake Griffin to that list which already includes Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, etc.). This is the player you miss, someday.

NEXT UP

The Bucks hit the national stage Wednesday night when they welcome Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

Following their victory over LA, the Bucks remain four games out of a playoff spot. Jeremy Schmidt from Bucksketball, for one, would like to see more of last year’s Bucks playing together:

The chemistry between the Bucks players from last season, Bogut, Jennings, Delfino, Salmons and Mbah a Moute in particular, was on display Monday night.  It felt all sorts of 2010 in the Bradley Center.  They knew where each other would be, Salmons could drive and kick to Jennings or swing that extra pass to Delfino.  The ball was shared and everyone knew they would get the ball back.  There was no selfishness and there was trust.  Everyone knew the plays and what to do.  That was a team that trusted each other.

Tip-off with the Nuggets is at 8 p.m. MST and you can see all the action on ESPN.

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