No Griffin, no luck for Pistons as Kings get their running game in gear early

Stanley Johnson scored 16 points off the bench but the Pistons, playing without Blake Griffin, lost to Sacramento
Rocky Widner (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 112-102 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center

NO BLAKE, NO WIN – Blake Griffin criticized the energy the Pistons brought to Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers to open their four-game road trip. It didn’t appear to get any better without him 24 hours later at the other end of California. The plan to give Griffin a night off was made long ago, Dwane Casey said, which he admitted pained him with the Pistons in the throes of a slump that began in early December, at about the same time a run of injuries struck. Sacramento’s running game produced 10 fast-break points in the first quarter as the Kings took a double-digits lead and stretched it to 22 in the second quarter while shooting more than 60 percent until late in the first half. Casey had to call timeout 81 seconds into the third quarter when the Kings scored seven quick points, an easy layup through the heart of the defense prompting the timeout, and it was pretty much over after 18 Sacramento points in the first four minutes of the second half. The Kings scored 34 points off turnovers and turned eight blocked shots into other fast-break opportunities. The Pistons have lost 16 of 20 games since peaking at 13-7 after their Dec. 1 win over Golden State.

NOT THIS TIME – The last time – the only other time – Blake Griffin sat out a game this season, Luke Kennard got the start and scored a career-high 28 points. This time didn’t go nearly that well. Without Griffin – and missing both Zaza Pachulia and Henry Ellenson due to injury – the Pistons had just two big men available, Andre Drummond and Jon Leuer. So Dwane Casey started four guards, essentially – Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Reggie Bullock and Kennard. Kennard played just nine first-half minutes and the starting unit failed to generate the type of perimeter offense Casey was hoping it would, combining to score just 23 first-half points. Kennard only took three shots in the first half, one more in the third quarter and eight for the game. He finished with five points, one rebound and two assists. Casey gave minutes to rookie Khyri Thomas, who finished with eight points while playing the last 17 minutes.

BOARDS BEATDOWN – You can measure it in any number of ways, but here’s as good as any to reflect the Pistons’ lethargy in this one: Sacramento outrebounded the Pistons, the No. 8 rebounding team in the league by rebound percentage going up against the 26th-ranked team , 48-37. That didn’t look nearly as bad as it did at halftime, when Sacramento held a 28-12 edge. Thanks in large measure to that difference, Sacramento held a whopping 19-6 edge in second-chance points. The alarming rebounding numbers came one night after the Pistons were hammered on the glass by the Lakers, 47-34. Andre Drummond grabbed 17 rebounds in Los Angeles, but looked worn down against the Kings, finishing with 11 boards and taking only nine shots in scoring 12 points while committing seven turnovers. Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento’s center, put up some Drummond-like numbers finishing with 14 points and 14 rebounds in just 25 minutes. Jon Leuer had 11 boards in 11 minutes for the Pistons. He and Drummond both spent much of the game in foul trouble, Leuer picking up three fouls in six minutes to start the second quarter and Drummond picking up his fourth with eight minutes left in the third quarter.