Another big game for Blake – and this time is pays off in a Pistons win

Blake Griffin put together another strong game, finishing with 25 points, as the Pistons surged in the second half to beat the Bulls.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – The Pistons understand that even after a romp over the Chicago Bulls, it’s still something of a Hail Mary shot for them to make the playoffs.

But getting that win before embarking on a six-game road trip lifted a ponderous weight from their shoulders. They at least hit the road feeling like Aaron Rodgers approaching the line of scrimmage for that Hail Mary shot.

“This time of year you take any win, however you can get it,” Blake Griffin said. “Any time, any place, anywhere. So that’s a good win.”

Griffin was magnificent again, scoring 25 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. But the Pistons didn’t win it with their offense in scoring just 99 points. They won it with their defense, holding Chicago to 57 points and 32 percent shooting over the last three quarters after the Bulls led 26-21 after one quarter.

“We just collectively committed to get three stops in a row,” James Ennis said after the 99-83 win. “So we started doing that and that’s what brought the lead up.”

The Bulls cranked up 14 3-point shots in the first 15 minutes and built a 39-29 lead by the midway point of the second quarter. But the Pistons limited them to 17 more 3-point attempts from that point on and very few shots went uncontested once the Pistons mounted a comeback that saw them outscore the Bulls 20-8 to end the first half with a two-point lead.

“I don’t think it was just (limiting 3-point attempts),” Griffin said. “It was that, but it wasn’t just that. It was everything. We just came out and didn’t put any pressure on them. I felt like they got everything they wanted early on and we did a better job of settling down and getting stops.”

Griffin generated most of the Pistons offense in the first half when they weren’t getting much from anyone but he and Reggie Bullock, who finished with 21 points and was the beneficiary of six of Griffin’s eight assists. Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen has a bright future, but he was overmatched against Griffin’s power and quickness in the post and Griffin’s passing made the Bulls pay for the double teams necessitated by the mismatch.

The Pistons seized control of the game from the outset of the third quarter, stretching their lead to double digits by the midway point.

Griffin is now averaging 28 points and shooting better than 50 percent overall and exactly 50 percent – 12 of 24 – from the 3-point arc over his last four games.

“Just being a little more decisive, I think,” he said. “I think somewhere in the middle, after the All-Star break, I was being too passive a little bit. Stan and a lot of the coaches, actually, had a talk with me about being more aggressive, looking at the basket first, and I think that’s what I’ve done.”

“He’s a good shooter and he’s shooting more of them in rhythm, which really helps,” Stan Van Gundy said.

The Pistons played without Stanley Johnson (back spasms) and Dwight Buycks (sprained ankle) in addition to Reggie Jackson and Jon Leuer, their long-term absentees. Injuries are at the root of the turnaround from 19-14 over the first 33 games – when Jackson was hurt – and their 11-22 record over the past 33.

They remain five games out of the final playoff berth with Milwaukee’s win over New York. But they can at least head west feeling a little better about themselves.

“I’m about as happy after that one as I have been (after the) Warriors win, Houston win, all of that,” Van Gundy said. “Seriously. It’s just been such a tough stretch. It was great to get one.”


Three quick observations from Tuesday night’s 110-79 loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena

1-EARLY BLITZ – Utah has built its second-half charge on the strength of its defense, but the Jazz routed the Pistons – they narrowly avoided both their worst loss and lowest-scoring game of the season – to start their six-game road trip west thanks first to a blistering offense. Utah shot 81 percent in the first quarter and hit 6 of 9 from the 3-point line to build a 42-21 lead. It was game over at that point. The Pistons missed their first nine 3-point shots, were 2 of 16 late in the third quarter and finished 5 of 25 from the arc. Andre Drummond picked up 10 points and five rebounds in the game’s first 10 minutes, but played just 26 seconds of the second quarter in picking up his third foul. He finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Blake Griffin, averaging 28 points over the past four games, scored just 13 on 5 of 16 shooting in 29 minutes. The Pistons lost by 36 at Philadelphia on Jan. 5 and scored a season-low 78 points.

2-A WILD 180 – Utah was 19-28 when the Jazz came to Detroit on Jan. 24. Erasing a nine-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation and winning in overtime that night launched Utah on a streak that saw them go 18-2 over the 20 games coming into Tuesday’s rematch with the Pistons. The Jazz did it with their defense. In that 20-game segment, Utah was not only the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA, they were farther ahead of Toronto – the No. 2 defense over that period – than the Raptors were ahead of the No. 15 defensive team. Stan Van Gundy said before the game that Utah’s defense gave the Jazz breathing room and winning has buoyed their confidence on offense. The Pistons scored just three points in the game’s first six possessions and already trailed by eight points. They never got any closer than four points, 11-7, after that.

3-NO BULLOCK – After being involved in a hit-and-run accident on Sunday on his way to practice, Reggie Bullock wasn’t sufficiently recovered in time to play against the Jazz. Bullock went through the offensive segment of Tuesday’s morning shootaround, then pulled out as Stan Van Gundy was about to commence the defensive portion. “I think the knee’s still bothering him,” Van Gundy said. Bullock said his knee banged into the steering wheel when struck by the car of the driver who fled the scene. Van Gundy opted to start Stanley Johnson for Bullock, preferring the matchups for Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway against Utah’s second unit. Bullock didn’t play, but he did dress and went through warmups with the team. Johnson finished with five points and hit 2 of 8 shots, while Kennard started the second half in his place and led the Pistons with 18 points, hitting 8 of 13 shots on a night the team shot just 37.5 percent.

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