5-game streak ends as Clippers clamp down on Pistons in 4th quarter
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – Stan Van Gundy remains staunchly enthusiastic about the new weapon he’s acquired, but the Pistons learned Friday night that this is a sword with two edges.
It worked to eviscerate the Brooklyn Nets 48 hours earlier when Blake Griffin took over down the stretch as the Pistons won their fifth straight game since getting him from the Los Angeles Clippers 11 days ago. But they caught the other side of it Friday night when Griffin’s ex-team shackled the Pistons in a 15-point fourth quarter to pull away for a 108-95 win.
So the five-game winning streak might have fooled Pistons fans into thinking there’d be no learning curve, but Van Gundy fretted otherwise. It didn’t help any when Friday’s snowstorm forced cancellation of the morning shootaround. The scoreboard since Griffin arrived is five games played, two practices.
No wonder Van Gundy was envious of counterpart Doc Rivers, who got two days of practice for Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley before their first game and two more practices before playing the Pistons.
“We just didn’t play well,” Van Gundy said. “I said that before the game and I’ll stick to it – we’re not functioning smoothly offensively. We’re all in it together but I’ve got to get that figured out on how we’re going to play because it was just standing around tonight and that’s not going to get it done.”
There’s a balance to be found between exploiting Griffin’s one-on-one ability while still encouraging ball and player movement – the things that formed the foundation of the retooled offense Van Gundy installed over last off-season. That balance was nowhere to be seen during a fourth quarter that saw the Pistons shoot 5 of 19 and commit four of their nine turnovers. At one point their went seven straight possessions without a point.
“I thought we’d done a pretty good job for the most part, at times, of moving the ball (before Friday) even though we had some iso situations,” Griffin said. “I just thought tonight, it got a little stagnant. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of reading that and knowing to get the ball to the other side and help the offense move better.”
The outcome might have been a little different – and the offense wouldn’t have seemed quite so stale – if Griffin and Andre Drummond had made another handful of shots from their many chances at or near the rim. But Griffin shot 7 of 19 and Drummond 5 of 15.
“I got great looks. I just missed easy shots,” Griffin said. “But those will go down if we’re getting to the paint and getting the shots we want. Sometimes they just don’t go in. I’ve played long enough to know that. You just have to have a short memory and keep going. Tonight it just didn’t go our way.”
The other troubling stat of the night – and maybe influenced by the lack of movement offensively – was the 57-40 advantage the Clippers held on the backboards despite Drummond’s 17 rebounds.
“Just toughness,” Reggie Bullock said. “They were just killing us on the boards.”
Bullock, who thrives on off-the-ball movement, broke loose for 16 first-half points and hit 5 of 9 from the 3-point arc for the game. But the Clippers began switching on every screen in the second half and that resulted in Bullock only getting two shots after halftime. He finished with 19 points. His teammates hit 5 of 22 from the arc. Griffin was 1 of 7 and Langston Galloway 0 of 4.
“Even though we’d been winning, we have that dilemma that we’ve got to figure out,” Van Gundy said. “How are we going to balance getting Blake the ball and not just be a team that’s standing around watching. We had absolutely no ball movement, particularly down the stretch in the fourth quarter. We had no ball movement at all and no player movement – probably even worse than ball movement. It was just a stand-around quarter and so every play was one on one and an isolation. Not just Blake; other guys. It was just one-on-one basketball, very bad basketball.”
It was a costly night for the Pistons, who saw the three teams ahead of them in the standings – Indiana, Miami and Philadelphia – all record wins. After a travel day on Saturday, the Pistons finish the pre-All-Star break portion of the schedule with three games in four days.
“We just didn’t play well down the stretch,” Griffin said. “I didn’t really expect to go 33 and 0 coming in, so we’ve just got to work and be better. It’s something that’s easily fixable. This is one loss.”