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