Griffin gets off IV, helps Pistons get off life support to notch rousing OT win
MINNEAPOLIS – Blake Griffin spent a good chunk of his day hooked to an IV machine and his team a good chunk of its night hooked to life support.
Down 14 going into the fourth quarter and enduring another rocky night from the 3-point line, the Pistons appeared certain to dip below .500.
That didn’t happen. Griffin’s fever broke in the fourth quarter and the Pistons’ temperature spiked dramatically. They got hot, in other words. The Pistons needed all of Griffin’s 34 points to get to overtime and needed an Andre Drummond 3-point shot – for real – after getting there to pull out a 129-123 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who took a 12-4 home record into the game.
“We were down 14 in that fourth quarter and coach Casey was like, ‘What do you guys want to do? You want to pack it up or do you want to win this game?’ ” Drummond said in the cramped visitors locker room at Target Center. “We buckled down defensively, made shots offensively, but most importantly we were having fun again.”
Well, yeah, it’s always fun when shots fall and, yowza, did shots ever fall in that fourth quarter. The Pistons came into the game 29th in the NBA at 32.5 percent from the 3-point arc and that’s pretty much where they were – 10 of 32, 31.2 percent – after three quarters. But that fourth quarter – wow.
Griffin knocked down 4 of 5 triples and scored 18 in the quarter. Reggie Bullock – who scored 33 to set a new career high for the second straight game after scoring 24 against Milwaukee – and Reggie Jackson both hit 2 of 2. The Pistons were 9 of 13 from the arc in the fourth quarter and their 20 makes for the game tied a season high while their 48 attempts from the arc broke by one the franchise record.
“The guys showed a lot of grit,” Dwane Casey said. “Win, lose or draw, when we play like that, good things are going to happen. The guys stayed together, they fought. We made a lot of mistakes in the first half, but it shows you – once the three ball starts falling. …”
The Pistons hung a 40-point fourth quarter on Minnesota and would have won without need of regulation but for the fact the Timberwolves also awakened from the arc after a moribund first three quarters. They hit 4 of 18 before the fourth quarter, then 5 of 10 with Robert Covington knocking down all four of his bombs.
The biggest one appeared to win the game for the Timberwolves with 7.4 seconds left. After Griffin harassed Derrick Rose – rejuvenated this season and continuing his ascent by dropping 33 on the Pistons – into missing a tough runner with the Pistons ahead 116-115, Griffin was swarmed by Rose and Dario Saric and lost control of the rebound. Saric found Covington in the corner for the triple and the lead.
Jackson got penetration down the right of the lane on the ensuing possession but missed a layup that Drummond cleaned up and put back with less than a second to go, forcing overtime.
“Just the will to do it,” Drummond said, part of his 16-point, 16-rebound night. “Went and got it and took my time to finish the play.”
Drummond’s triple in overtime, which came near the end of a disrupted possession, put the Pistons ahead 123-122 and his free throw on the next possession put them back ahead 124-123, this time for good.
“When I got the pass from Langston (Galloway), I saw the clock, there were eight seconds left,” he said. “The corner three is something I shoot every day, day in and day out. It’s a shot I take all the time and I shot it with confidence and I knew it was going in.”
On a day Griffin dealt with an illness – he smilingly blamed Zaza Pachulia, who missed the win over Boston last Saturday with the flu – shooting became contagious for the Pistons, this time in a good way.
“Immensely tough, very committed,” said Jackson, who bounced back from a few tough games with 24 points on 7 of 13 shooting with six assists and zero turnovers, of Griffin. “The leader of our team and the heart. Hats off to him.”
“He looked fine to me. Start having stomach problems more often,” Drummond deadpanned. “It shows his dedication. Even though he wasn’t feeling well, he still put out 100 percent. Didn’t miss a beat even though he felt bad.”
“A good win,” Griffin said. “Everybody contributed, top to bottom. Reggie Bullock, Reggie Jackson, Bruce (Brown) – everybody played really well and contributed. It’s good to get a win on the road like that.”