Drummond’s big 4th quarter helps Pistons escape with win over depleted Mavs
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Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 93-89 win over the New York Knicks at Little Caesars Arena
CRUNCH-TIME WIN – On a night it became official what’s been apparent for a few months – Blake Griffin is, once again, a certifiable All-Star – the Pistons showed why they’ve struggled to a 22-28 record despite his feats. Griffin finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists but got precious little help outside of Andre Drummond (24 points, 20 rebounds) and Reggie Jackson (17 points, seven rebounds, nine assists) as the Pistons struggled with a badly depleted opponent, Dallas. Drummond had 12 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, which began with the Pistons trailing by seven points. The Mavericks led by 11 late in the third quarter, but the Pistons tied the game with 2:32 to play and took a three-point lead with 1:33 to play on a Jackson reverse layup. Griffin and Harrison Barnes swapped baskets after two Barnes free throws, giving the Pistons possession and a one-point lead with 25.5 seconds remaining. Two Jackson free throws made it a three-point game, then Griffin made a heads-up foul with 5.4 seconds left after a Mavs offensive rebound to prevent a tying 3-pointer. The Pistons made their first five shots of the game, then went into an offensive tailspin that saw a ragtag collection of leftover Mavericks – a late-afternoon cost them three starters and rookie Luka Doncic missed the game with an ankle injury – take a 10-point lead early in the second quarter. Dallas built a 13-point lead midway through the second quarter before a Reggie Jackson 3-pointer punctuated a dreadful stretch that saw the Pistons miss 19 of 23 shots.
NO PUNCH – Lack of consistency and production from the two wing positions has been an ongoing problem for the Pistons this season and it was especially pronounced this time around. While Langston Galloway provided some scoring off the bench – he finished with 11 points in 22 minutes – the quartet of Reggie Bullock, Bruce Brown, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard finished with six points on 2 of 23 combined shooting. Through three quarters, Bullock was 1 of 8 – all from the 3-point arc – while the three others had missed all 12 of their shots. Stanley Johnson finished 0 of 7 in 12 minutes. Bullock finished with four points after not taking a shot in the fourth quarter. Brown went scoreless in 20 minutes, taking three shots. Kennard went 1 of 5 and finished with two points in 20 minutes. In the first half, when Dallas built its 14-point lead, the Pistons got zero points from the two starters, Bullock and Brown, and zero off the bench from former No. 1 picks Johnson and Kennard.
BAD OMEN – The combination of the blockbuster deal Dallas and New York completed late Thursday afternoon and Luke Doncic’s ankle injury meant the Mavericks were missing four starters from the lineup that engaged the Pistons in Texas six days earlier. DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr. were all involved in the trade that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas and it was all enough to make Dwane Casey very nervous. First of all, the game plan had to be trashed. Then there was his experience with trades having a temporary energizing effect on a locker room suddenly presented with expanded opportunity. “That’s the history of what happens with an in-season trade – the guys in the locker room are finally getting an opportunity,” Casey said. “They come out guns a blazin’ and know they’re not coming out of the game. Had two of three instances of trades being made prior to the game and the human nature thing to do is let your guard down.”