Injury wave keeps buffeting Pistons, who get overpowered by 76ers to lose 5th straight
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Monday night’s 125-109 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Little Caesars Arena
REVOLVING DOOR – The flu isn’t the only winter contagion. Injuries, also. The bug has afflicted the Pistons up and down their roster and on Monday it targeted Bruce Brown – a newcomer – and Luke Kennard. Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose returned as the revolving door of injured players continued to spin, but missing their starting backcourt in Kennard (soreness in both knees) and Brown (soreness in both calf muscles) – or what had become their starting backcourt since Reggie Jackson’s injury two games into the season – further handcuffed the Pistons against another of the East’s contenders, Philadelphia. For all of that, the Pistons hung tough, leading as late as midway through the second quarter when the 76ers used a 9-0 run to build an eight-point halftime lead. The Pistons tied it with a strong third-quarter start and were still within six points early in the fourth quarter. Then it snowballed as the Pistons, who hit 7 of 17 triples in the first half, couldn’t generate enough offense to stay within striking distance. Christian Wood also returned – ahead of schedule. Diagnosed last Thursday with a left knee bone bruise, Wood was to be re-evaluated in one week. Instead, he made it back in four days. Griffin had missed the past two games – one due to soreness in the left knee that caused him to miss the season’s first 10 games and others since, one due to the flu – and his perimeter shots consistently came up short. He finished 2 of 14 and 0 of 6 from the 3-point arc.
STREAK SNAPPER – Andre Drummond didn’t start after missing the morning shootaround, the first time he hasn’t started since coming off of the bench for the first 50 games of his rookie season – a string of 520 consecutive starts in games in which Drummond has played. Drummond suffered a lower-back stress reaction – a similar injury to the one that’s kept Reggie Jackson sidelined since the season’s second game – in his rookie season and when he returned, moved into the starting lineup for the final 10 games of the 2012-13 season. He’s been a fixture ever since and one of the NBA’s most durable players, missing a total of 12 games – including two this season after experiencing an allergic reaction to avocado while the Pistons were in Mexico City earlier this month – over the past six-plus seasons. Thon Maker started in Drummond’s place. Drummond entered the game with a little more than three minutes left in the first quarter. He finished with 27 points on 13 of 16 shooting.
BOARD DEFICIT – Rebounding has suddenly become a major liability for the Pistons. They were outrebounded by 15 in Friday’s loss at Boston and by 17 in Saturday’s home loss to Chicago. Philadelphia held a 27-15 edge by halftime and expanded it from there, finishing with a whopping 48-30 advantage. Andre Drummond led the Pistons with nine rebounds, but finished well under his league-leading average of 16.4 per game. The Pistons still came into Monday’s game ranked in the upper half of rebounding teams at No. 14, grabbing 50.1 percent of available rebounds. Philadelphia came into Monday’s game as the NBA’s No. 1 rebounding team. Boston ranks 12th and Chicago 29th. Philadelphia’s size across all five lineup spots gives the 76ers their rebounding oomph. Point guard Ben Simmons, 6-foot-10, led Philadelphia in rebounding with 13 as part of a triple-double that included 16 points and 17 assists.