AUBURN HILLS – If only all of a team’s foibles that pop up intermittently over the course of a season could be cured as easily as Stan Van Gundy’s chat suggesting Blake Griffin be less concerned with vetting every passing option and more focused on scoring.
Since that discussion three games ago, Griffin is averaging 29 points on 50 percent shooting and seen his shot attempts per game go up by five while cutting his turnovers nearly in half.
Over his first 13 games, Griffin shot 40 percent and averaged 17.8 points. As he’s shot more and scored dramatically more with greater efficiency, his assists totals have come down but barely, from 5.8 to 5.0 a game.
“Sitting down and watching some of those games, I guess my first look was away from the basket,” Griffin said after he scored 31 points in a wrenching overtime loss to Toronto on Wednesday. “Like what Stan said, in order for us to be successful I have to look at the basket a little bit more. I’m just being a little bit more aggressive, not necessarily attacking but just looking.”
Griffin hit several clutch baskets, including two in the final 10 seconds of regulation to first give the Pistons a one-point lead and then – after a three-point play by DeMar DeRozan – to force overtime. In overtime, he tripled to tie the game and then drew a double team to set up Reggie Bullock for a shot that could have won the game.
“He’s taking the shots that are there,” Van Gundy said after Thursday’s practice. “He’s taking open shots without hesitation, which I think helps him shoot the ball better and will obviously lead to more shots. But he’s shooting it freely and without hesitation.”
Van Gundy said that while Griffin might be more comfortable, he still doesn’t think he’s settled fully into a comfort zone. Having his teammates now figure out how to best play off a more decisive Griffin is the next step.
“I think he and Bullock play well together and now it’s a little bit of the other guys,” Van Gundy said. “But I think he and Bullock play well together. They’ve developed pretty good chemistry. They played well together last night. Even the shot, the three that Bullock missed, that was a really good shot. Second defender came down, Blake put the pass on target, Reggie shot it without hesitation and on balance. He’s one of the top 10 3-point shooters in the league, so you’re not going to get a much better shot than that.”
Griffin remains encouraged by what he sees as the potential of the core, again alluding to the return of Reggie Jackson in determining what the future could hold.
“There’s definitely glimpses,” he said. “We’ve put together some good quarters, halves or three quarters. We just haven’t put together a full 48 minutes. In these tough games – especially on the road and especially against teams like Toronto – you’ve got to put together way more good minutes than you do bad. We have a lot of guys that can go and guys that have played really well. Once we put everything together, once we get healthy, I like our team.”