Griffin, Drummond dominant as Pistons roll to 4th straight win, beat Wizards
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 121-112 win over the Washington Wizards at Little Caesars Arena
DYNAMIC DUO – Blake Griffin is unquestionably the Pistons MVP of the season and fully deserving of his fifth All-Star bid. But the key interlude in their win over Washington – their fourth straight, one off their season high – came in the seven minutes Griffin sat to close the third quarter. Ahead by two when he went out after playing all but 75 seconds of the first half, Griffin returned to start the fourth quarter with the Pistons holding an 11-point lead. The win lifted the Pistons a half-game ahead of Miami – which had a late tipoff at Denver – for the eighth spot in the East and pulled them to within a half-game of Charlotte, which lost to Indiana. Griffin piled up more big numbers – 31 points, nine rebounds and nine assists – and Andre Drummond was dominant again (32 points, 17 rebounds, four steals) for the Pistons. The Pistons got 15 points off the bench from Luke Kennard, who hit 4 of 6 from the 3-point arc. Bradley Beal, who played the entire second half, finished with 31 points and 10 assists for Washington.
HE’S A HOCKEY PLAYER – The Pistons’ hockey-playing co-tenants at Little Caesars Arena would approve of Thon Maker’s toughness. Maker took five stitches to the upper lip in the first half, but returned to the game after halftime. Maker played one minute in the first half – just long enough to record a spectacular blocked shot of Bobby Portis’ dunk attempt and suffer a bloody lip when he took a head butt while, insult to injury, being called for an offensive foul as he set a screen. Maker’s injury coupled with Jon Leuer being made inactive meant the Pistons were thin in the frontcourt, necessitating Blake Griffin to play nearly 23 first-half minutes. Maker returned five minutes into the third quarter with the Pistons nursing a two-point lead, but they promptly went on an 8-0 run helped along by his 3-pointer. Maker finished with five points and four rebounds in 14 minutes. One game after breaking in newly acquired Svi Mykhailiuk and Maker, the Pistons unveiled Wayne Ellington, signed on Saturday after being waived by Phoenix, which acquired him last week in a deal with Miami designed to provide luxury-tax relief for the Heat. Ellington struggled in missing all seven of his 3-point shots, scoring on his only other attempt, a driving layup in the second half.
HOT STARTS – In the four games before Monday’s win, the Pistons averaged 37.5 points in first quarters, matching their season high for points in a quarter with 40 against the Clippers and then exceeding it with 41 in Friday’s win over the Knicks. They kept at it against the Wizards, scoring 36 points in the first quarter. One reason the Pistons have seen the uptick in early scoring is the improved play from Reggie Jackson and its impact on the first unit. Over his last eight games before Monday, Jackson averaged 19.1 points and 6.3 assists with less than a turnover per game while shooting nearly 50 percent overall and 44 percent from the 3-point line. Dwane Casey said Jackson had “played his best basketball this season the last three or four weeks and the consistency from him has been huge.” Jackson didn’t do as much scoring against Washington mostly because the Pistons first unit was intent on exploiting the physical edges held by Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, who combined for 37 first-half points. But he was again efficient, scoring 14 of his 16 points after halftime and making all four of his 3-point attempts.