Blake gets a break: Pistons, down 4 key players, battle but fall to Philly
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Three quick observations from Monday night’s 116-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center
CRITICAL SHORTAGE – Whatever game plan the Philadelphia 76ers devised to play the Pistons for the fourth time in 25 games – they’re finished for the season with each other already – it’s fair to guess it was crumpled up and thrown in the trash after news broke Monday afternoon that Blake Griffin would sit out. Griffin, 11th in NBA scoring at 25.6 points a game, had averaged 39.7 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in three games this season against Philadelphia. The Pistons also were without Reggie Bullock for the fourth straight game and Ish Smith and Stanley Johnson for the third straight. That meant the Pistons were missing 55 points from their average output. They got a huge game from Luke Kennard, whose 28 points set a career best, and big numbers from Andre Drummond (21 points, 17 rebounds), but were hurt in a number of key areas. The 76ers outscored them 45-27 from the 3-point arc, 23-11 from the foul line and 27-11 in second-chance points Johnson’s absence was perhaps as critical to the Pistons defense as Griffin’s was to the offense. Griffin and Johnson likely would have taken turns guarding Ben Simmons and it was Simmons, guarded by Jon Leuer, who got Philadelphia’s offense rolling. The 76ers led by 15 in the first half when the Pistons went on a late 12-0 run. They again came back from a double-digits deficit to pull within three late in the third quarter, then again pared a 12-point deficit to six with nine minutes to play. A 14-2 Philadelphia run iced it.
A BREAK FOR BLAKE – Dwane Casey said the decision to give Blake Griffin a game off was in the works even before Sunday’s first-quarter collision with Anthony Davis hobbled him. Griffin, who has missed significant stretches of each of the past four seasons, ranks No. 6 in the NBA in minutes per game at 35.6. The Pistons were playing their third game in four nights and their fourth in six nights at Philadelphia. “We had talked about (giving him time off) beforehand. That quickened it,” Casey said of Sunday’s collision in which Griffin’s knee banged into Davis’ hip. Davis sat out the final 18-plus minutes of the first half and the first two of the second half before returning. Casey wouldn’t commit to Griffin playing at Charlotte on Wednesday – “we’ll see,” he said – and said that Griffin was on board with the decision. “I’m sure he’s not 100 percent happy with it,” Casey said. “He’s a competitor. He wants to play but he also is smart enough to understand the big picture.”
RIPPLE EFFECTS – Blake Griffin’s absence – in concert with the continued absences of Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith – forced Dwane Casey to rethink his lineup. Without the scoring punch of Griffin and Bullock in the starting lineup, Casey also subbed Luke Kennard in for Glenn Robinson III for the greater offensive versatility Kennard provides. Leuer started for Griffin and Bruce Brown drew the start at shooting guard mostly for his ability to match up with Jimmy Butler. Butler exited the game after 10 first-half minutes with a strained groin. The second unit consisted of Robinson, Jose Calderon, Zaza Pachulia, Henry Ellenson and Langston Galloway. Ellenson, who had played just eight minutes in one previous appearance this season, had five points and six rebounds in 17 minutes. Galloway, after scoring a season-high 24 points in a season-high 37 minutes on Sunday, went scoreless in 22 minutes.