About Last Night

About Last Night: Discarded veterans lead upset-filled night

Blake Griffin, Rodney Hood and Jamal Crawford each played a big role in their teams' respective wins

Matt Petersen, NBA.com

It didn’t take long for the Clippers to change their tune toward Blake Griffin from “we’ll retire your number” to “hand in your jersey.” Roughly six months, in fact.

Detroit, the team that traded for him last January, had hoped the suddenly unwanted former All-Star would make the Pistons a factor in the shallow Eastern Conference. It didn’t work, at least not right away. Griffin averaged less than 20 points per game in 25 games with his new team, which produced a bottom-10 offense for the rest of the season.

The benefit of training camp does wonders. So does hiring the reigning Coach of the Year in Dwane Casey. Those were known benefits entering this season. Griffin putting up a career year at age 29 — after multiple injuries and surgeries — was not.

The former No. 1 pick was at his versatile best in Detroit’s 116-111 win over his former teammate Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets on Friday. Griffin posted 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists, right in the neighborhood of his season averages thus far. He was clutch in regulation with a late 3-pointer and in overtime with a breakaway slam.

His spring is back; within the past week, Griffin has thrown down a pair of put-backs reminiscent of his posterizing, car-hurdling days as a young Clipper. He’s also shooting a career-best 40 percent from 3, a game-changing development for an already potent offensive force.

Griffin is one half of Detroit’s two-man battering ram in the frontcourt. Andre Drummond decimated the Rockets for 23 points and 20 rebounds — his sixth 20-20 game in 16 games. He had seven such performances all of last season. Drummond and Griffin could be Detroit’s first multiple All-Stars since 2008.

But there’s a reason Drummond was pouring water on Griffin after the game, and not vice versa. Griffin’s unexpected rebirth could push the Pistons from the fringes — they’ve won 40-plus games just once in the last 10 years — into the playoff dance. They’re 9-7 thanks to top-10 rankings in defense, second-chance points, points off turnovers and points in the paint. If they ever fix their league-worst shooting clip (43.4%) , the Pistons might be one of the “nobody wants to play them” teams come April.

Forgotten free agents

Remember when Jamal Crawford and Rodney Hood took turns in the “why hasn’t anyone signed them yet?” segments? On Friday, they made their tepid offseason markets look even more bizarre.

Hood torched the 76ers in Cleveland’s surprising 121-112 win at Philadelphia, scoring 25 points while shooting 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. Hood’s effort gave the Cavs their first road win while simultaneously handing the Sixers their first road loss.

Crawford, to the surprise of no one who knows him, came up big in the fourth quarter of Phoenix’s equally eye-raising 116-114 win at Milwaukee. The three-time Kia Sixth Man of the Year put up six points, two assists, a steal, and the game-winner with 0.8 seconds remaining.

It’s not like Crawford hasn’t done this before (a lot). The only question is why it took an NBA team so long to sign him for those services again.

Thunder double up

After an offseason wondering how Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder would mesh, the answer is: pretty darn well. In 10 games of shared court time, the point guard pairing is a plus-27, while boasting numbers that would rank among the league’s top three teams in offensive rating, defensive rating and pace.

In short, the Westbrook-Schroder combo is ramming the ball down people’s throats. The Thunder started the pair together on Friday, and they wound up combining for 53 points on 19-for-37 shooting in OKC’s win over Charlotte.

The Thunder are 12-2 after a horrific 0-4 start, and their point guards are a big reason why.

Javalio McGeeovic

When you do something cool and you know it.

On the other hand…

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tried to print a poster and ran out of toner.

Football fan

Dwyane Wade has always been kind to his fans. On Friday, that included the Chicago Bears’ one-man wrecking crew of Khalil Mack.

Back on track?

No Curry. No Draymond. No loss this time.

The Warriors snapped their first Kerr-era four-game losing streak with a resounding 125-97 win over Portland. Perhaps the most encouraging sign (aside from the win itself) was the return of Klay Thompson’s outside shooting. Entering Friday night, the former 3-point contest champ was shooting just over 32 percent from deep, several icy steps below his career mark of 41.8 percent.

Against the Blazers, Thompson shot a much more familiar 12-for-21 (4-for 9 from 3).

Stephen Curry’s play of the game came with an assist from brother and Blazers guard Seth Curry.

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