Five Takeaways: Clippers Surge Past Pistons in Detroit
DETROIT — Meeting two weeks after the franchise-altering trade, the Clippers beat the Blake Griffin-led Pistons, 108-95, behind Lou Williams’ 26 points.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers win.
1) Familiar faces everywhere —
The Clippers-Pistons game originally was not scheduled to air on national television, but after the Blake Griffin-centered trade, ESPN picked it up.
ESPN likely anticipated that Griffin, Avery Bradley or Tobias Harris – all of whom were involved in the Jan. 29 trade – would be the main storyline. But it was former Clipper Reggie Bullock that dominated the game for the first half, scoring 13 points with four threes, which matched the whole Clippers team over that span. Bullock kept his efficiency in the second half, but didn’t shoot nearly as much. He finished with a team-high 19 points.
Griffin, facing his former team, struggled shooting, going 7-of-19 to total 19 points.More than a few former teammates had their chance to guard Griffin: Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, DeAndre Jordan, and Montrezl Harrell all switched off on Griffin.
In their return to Detroit, Tobias Harris scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, and Bradley added 10 points and a season-high 8 rebounds.
2) Testy moment —
Halfway through the first quarter, with the Pistons in transition, Blake Griffin sealed deep position in the post against Avery Bradley, catching the Clippers in a cross matchup. Bradley fought his way to the frontside, denying Griffin a chance for an easy post-up, forcing Ish Smith to pull up for a midrange jumper. As the shot went up, Bradley and Griffin fought for position, leading to the two exchanging some heated words and pushes. Both players received a technical foul for their involvement.
“It’s a game where I really know that team, but we’re trying to get wins, they’re trying to get wins. I’m not the guy to be all buddy-buddy during games. It’s going to be a war,” Griffin said pregame, discussing the mood entering the night.
The moment between Griffin and Bradley captured tonight’s back-and-forth affair, as there were 11 different lead changes in the game, and 8 different ties.
3) Clippers pass well early without Milos —
Milos Teodosic, the Clippers’ primary distributor, was ruled out with a sore right foot. But early in the game, the offensive unit flowed with a tangible selflessness, as the Clippers scored 30 points on 11 field goals, with 10 assists.
For comparison, the rest of the game, the Clippers totaled 13 assists on 31 shots.
4) Rivers’ ankle okay —
Austin Rivers returned to action after missing the last 18 games due to a right ankle injury. He immediately drew the start with Teodosic out. Early in the game, Rivers played more passively, never really dominating the ball and only shooting open threes. In the second half, Rivers visibly gained confidence, attacking the basket off the dribble with his usual tenacity and elite crossover, sending a few Pistons sprawling backwards off balance.
Rivers finished with 16 points and 5 assists, showing no lingering effects of the injury.
Rivers closed the game in the backcourt with Lou Williams, fresh off his new multi-year extension. Williams scored 26 points, including 20 in the second half. It was Williams’ 13th half of the season scoring 20 or more, tied for 5th most in the league.
5) Harrell having career stretch —
With Willie Reed no longer on the team, Montrezl Harrell has received nearly all of the Clippers’ backup center minutes, and he’s certainly earned the role with his recent stretch of play. He scored 18 points tonight on 8-of-13 shooting in 19 minutes. He scored on rip-through hook shoots, step back off-the-dribble shots, putbacks, and even directed the offense calling plays. Over the last month, Harrell is averaging nearly 14 points per game, well over his career average of 7.5.