Lock-down defense in second half carries Pistons to win at Memphis
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Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 101-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum
GRIND CITY, INDEED – Memphis, the place the Pistons played themselves out of the blues. In danger of getting swept on a four-game road trip, the Pistons held the Grizzlies to 39 second-half points and got two huge threes from Luke Kennard on successive fourth-quarter possessions in winning on the second night of a back to back against the “Grind City” Grizzlies, who were off on Tuesday. Memphis went six straight possessions without a score after pulling to within a point midway through the fourth quarter as the Pistons went on a 13-0 run. Kennard’s first triple with a little more than five minutes to play put the Pistons ahead by four, then he hit a deep wing three at the shot-block buzzer the next time to put them ahead by seven. A tough driving layup by Reggie Jackson made it a nine-point lead with 4:19 to play. The Grizzlies had scored 27 points in nearly 20 second-half minutes to that point. The Pistons trailed by four at halftime, but held Memphis without a point for more than five minutes and without a basket for more than six minutes to start the third quarter. Yet when the Grizzlies finally got that first basket – from Jarren Jackson Jr. as part of a three-point play – they trailed by a single point. Memphis scored just 12 points and shot 3 of 17 in a quarter in which the Pistons shot 35 percent and scored 21 points to take a 72-67 lead to the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin led the Pistons with 26 points
BENCH CHALLENGED – The bench was indisputably a Pistons strength during the 13-7 start to the season, but the run of injuries and Dwane Casey’s search for a consistent and compatible fifth starter has disrupted the second unit’s continuity and put a damper on its effectiveness. Ish Smith has missed 14 games since suffering a torn adductor muscle on Dec. 5 and the Pistons are now 4-10 without him after going 13-9 with him. Zaza Pachulia missed his second straight game with a calf muscle injury. Stanley Johnson missed Tuesday’s loss at Milwaukee with a thigh contusion suffered in Sunday’s loss at Orlando, playing six first-half minutes before sitting out the second half. Langston Galloway has remained healthy and he came out of a shooting slump at Memphis, making 3 of 6 triples and finishing with 11 points. He’d been 0 of 11 from the 3-point arc on the first three games of the road trip and missed his first two against Memphis. Luke Kennard scored 30 points in the first two games of the road trip after enduring his own slump, then shot 3 of 10 at Milwaukee and was 2 of 9 at Memphis before hitting his two critical 3-pointers. Kennard finished with 13 points.
NUMBERS DOWN – Andre Drummond remains the NBA’s leading rebounder at 15.0 a game, but his numbers have declined over the past month. In fact, he had only one 20-rebound game in December after posting six in October/November. Over the four-game road trip, Drummond grabbed 44 on the road trip with a high of 15 at Orlando and a low of seven at Milwaukee. In 19 games before December, Drummond averaged 16.2 rebounds a game. In 16 games since the end of November and before Drummond’s 10 rebounds at Memphis, he’s averaged 13.6 rebounds a game. Drummond went into the Memphis game 18 offensive rebounds short of passing Dennis Rodman for second in Pistons history and 51 short of overtaking Bill Laimbeer for No. 1. Drummond also picked up his 10th technical foul of the season at Memphis, putting him one off Russell Westbrook. Should Drummond reach 16 technicals, he’s be required to serve a one-game suspension and then another game for every two technical fouls.