Brown muzzles Young as Pistons roll to season’s most lopsided win
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
DETROIT – There aren’t many things Bruce Brown likes less than talking about himself after games. One of those things is getting torched defensively.
So after Trae Young scored 38 points to wreck the Pistons home opener last month, Brown was succinct but pointed: “Great shooter. Great scorer. Can move the ball. He had a great game today, but can’t wait to see him next time in a few weeks.”
Brown defended Young, the No. 7 scorer in the NBA at 26.8 a game, with the same sort of blunt force with which he speaks, holding him to nine points. If you’d have told Dwane Casey before tipoff that Brown would outscore Young by five points, force him into five turnovers and limit him to two free throws – one on the game’s first possession, one after the Pistons were whistled for defensive three seconds – Casey probably would have expected an easy win.
That’s just what the Pistons got, their most decisive of the season: 128-103. Along the way, they scored 76 points in the first half – their highest-scoring first half since December 1983 when they scored 77 against … Atlanta.
Harassing Young into a 3 of 12 shooting night and limiting him to 1 of 7 from the 3-point line was the proverbial team defensive effort – the Pistons blitzed him relentlessly coming around screens, even 35 feet from the rim – but it started, unmistakably, with Brown. Fresh in his mind were Young’s celebratory antics after the October eruption.
“I saw that last game,” Brown said after Friday’s romp to snap a five-game losing streak. “That’s why I was saying I couldn’t wait to play him this game. He didn’t do none of that today.”
You didn’t let him do that tonight, Brown was prodded.
“No, we” – heavy emphasis on the we – “didn’t let him do none of that,” he said.
Brown’s defense was only of many things the Pistons had to celebrate. They hit 17 of 34 3-point shots and racked up 30 assists. Luke Kennard wasn’t one of the seven players to reach double figures in scoring – he came up a point shy – but picked up nine assists. Brown added seven.
“The ball was moving and we didn’t turn it over until the last few minutes,” Casey said. “We got good shots and we are such a good shooting team – if we get good attempts and don’t turn it over – and that put us in position to win. Our defense was solid. I thought Bruce Brown did a heck of a job on Trae Young, who is a very tough cover, and he did it without fouling.”
Perhaps the most notable development for the season’s final 67 games was Blake Griffin’s season-high 24 points and 33 minutes. After a rough first quarter, Griffin looked as close to the All-NBA Griffin of 2018-19 as he has yet, moving more freely and exuding an aura of control.
“I thought he was the bounciest I have seen him since he came back,” Casey said after Griffin’s fourth outing. “He had juice and he had bounce, defensively and offensively. I think when he saw the first three go down, that really gave him a lot of confidence.”
The Pistons got 31 first-half points off of their bench, including 11 apiece from Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris. Langston Galloway hit four triples and scored 12 points, extending his career-long streak of scoring in double digits to 11 games. And Andre Drummond took the fourth quarter off but still put up 23 points and 15 rebounds.
“Definitely needed this one, for sure,” Drummond said. “The way we’ve been playing has just been tough – tough to play and tough to watch. For us to get a win tonight, we got our engines turning. Now we’ve got a good team tomorrow in Milwaukee and without some of our guys playing, we’ve just got to play hard.”
Griffin wound up playing more than nine minutes of the fourth quarter even with the game well in hand. As Drummond’s words indicated, it’s unlikely Griffin was ticketed to play in the back to back, anyway, and Casey explained that extending Griffin’s minutes was a recommendation to help him get back to himself.
“That is the only way they tell me that is going to help him,” he said. “Try to extend his minutes.”
The decisiveness of the win overwhelmed a forgettable first four minutes that seemed to portend another long night for the Pistons, who fell behind 14-4 and committed four turnovers in that time. But they quickly mounted a 20-0 run, their longest since a November 2015 win at Portland, and the rout was on.
“It was fun,” Brown said. “Our first blowout. We played with energy and we won the game, so it was cool.”
Even in an age where braggadocio is celebrated and encouraged, you won’t find many players who put themselves on the line to the degree Brown did after Young’s 38-point game. What does that tell you about Brown?
“He’s a dog defensively,” Drummond said. “He takes it personal when somebody scores on him. For him to be excited to play this kid again and play him the way he played shows the type of player he is.”