A ‘bad, bad, bad’ loss haunts the Pistons as Clippers overcome 25-point deficit

Ish Smith
Ish Smith returned from injury but the Pistons bench struggled and their problems were magnified by the 39 points Lou Williams scored for the Clippers off of their bench
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)

DETROIT – The story should have been another rousing win for Blake Griffin against his former team. The story should have been Reggie Jackson’s season-best 29 points, seven assists and zero turnovers and what the re-emergence of their point guard might mean for a playoff drive. The story should have been a wire-to-wire domination of a playoff-caliber team as a building block for Dwane Casey’s vision of the Pistons.

Instead, it was a loss that ... well, let them tell it.

“Bad, bad, bad loss,” Griffin said. “Probably one of if not the worst loss we’ve had this year, just being up by so many points and letting our foot off the pedal. But it happened.”

“Devastating,” Casey admitted. “We played as good a basketball as we could play. We’re like two different teams.”

“What were we up? Twenty-five?,” Ish Smith asked. “Yeah, tough loss. These are the ones you kick yourself (for) at the end of the season.”

You want numbers? We’ve got crazy numbers.

  • The Clippers got 80 points off of their bench, 39 by Lou Williams. The Clippers bench outscored the Pistons bench by 63 points. They also outscored Clippers starters by 49.

  • The 25-point comeback was the biggest in Clippers history. The blown 25-point lead was the largest for the Pistons in 20 years.

  • The Pistons scored 40 points in the first quarter, tying their season’s best, then scored 61 in the last three quarters.

  • The Pistons outscored the Clippers by 18 in the first quarter, but were outscored by 21 (35-14) in the fourth quarter. Williams outscored the Pistons by four all by himself in the fourth quarter, when he hit 6 of 9 shots, including 2 of 3 triples and all four of his free throws.

  • In the game’s final 17 minutes – after a Jackson triple with 4:59 left in the third quarter made it 83-60 – the Pistons were outscored 51-18.

    “Down the stretch in the third quarter, we had some turnovers – I had a turnover – missed shots,” Griffin said. “When that happens, we’ve just got to sit down and play defense on the other end and we didn’t do that. We started missing shots, didn’t get stops and slowly chipped at it.”

    Well, not so slowly, really. The Pistons led by 19 after Smith’s triple with 2:33 left in the third quarter and it took the Clippers a mere six minutes to tie. They took the lead for good on Williams’ layup with 6:18 to go.

    “I don’t think we sent Lou Williams the right way the entire second half,” said Casey, who coached him in Toronto. “Everybody in the league knows which way he wants to go and we allowed him to go that way. There’s a lot of factors when you lose that kind of lead. That’s what’s disturbing.”

    After the Pistons hit 8 of 12 triples in the first quarter – and one of their misses was Andre Drummond’s 60-foot heave at the buzzer – the game got incredibly choppy and foul plagued. Whatever rhythm the Pistons had was gone. The Clippers didn’t establish any, either – until they did. And then it was a tsnumani’s worth of rhythm.

    “In the second and third quarter, I remember looking up and it felt like it should be three minutes left in the quarter, both quarters. And it was like eight minutes left, seven minutes left,” Griffin said. “A lot of fouls get called both ways, then it starts to tighten up the game and we didn’t do a good job of adjusting to that.”

    Smith’s return from injury should give Casey’s bench a boost, but it was a liability on this occasion. Luke Kennard was minus-16 in 17 minutes and Stanley Johnson – who took turns with Bruce Brown guarding Williams – was minus-15 in 18 minutes.

    “Not putting it all on them, but minus-16, minus-10, minus-15, minus-7,” Casey said, ticking off the numbers of his bench players. “Blake played 42. (Jackson) was over his minutes, 36. They have a consistent scorer off their bench in Lou Williams. It’s on all of us – coaching staff, myself, all of us have to figure out a way to get consistency for a long period of time.”

    And they have a short period of time to figure it out. Their margin for error, already thin with a 22-28 record coming into the game, got further whittled down with a loss that carries the danger of hovering over the Pistons from now until April 11, when the standings will tell them whether they go home or go on.

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