No suspense: Pistons nail down playoff spot with blowout win over Knicks
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 115-89 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
OVER EARLY – This time, the Pistons ended the suspense before halftime. Unlike Tuesday’s win over Memphis, when a comeback from 22 points down was required, this time the Pistons clinched a playoff berth with a wire-to-wire win. They took a 14-point lead after one quarter and then Luke Kennard scored the team’s first 17 points of the second, when they expanded their cushion to 27 points before settling for a 24-point halftime lead. The Knicks didn’t cut it below 20 in the third quarter and the Pistons stretched it to 36, enough to give their starters the fourth quarter off. Next up: the playoffs to start either Saturday or Sunday at Milwaukee. The win enabled the Pistons to finish the season 41-41. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond got the Pistons off and running, Jackson scoring 14 points in the first quarter on 5 of 7 shooting and Drummond going for 10 points and seven rebounds. Drummond finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds, the 41st time this season he’s had at least 15 points and 15 rebounds. He became the first person in the NBA since Moses Malone to average 15 and 15 in consecutive seasons. Jackson finished with 21 points and seven assists.
SHUT DOWN – There was no surprise in the news Dwane Casey delivered about 90 minutes before tipoff that Blake Griffin wasn’t going to play in the finale. Griffin played 16 unproductive minutes on Tuesday before retiring to the bench less than four minutes into the second half. A few minutes after Casey, talking to reporters in the corridor outside the Pistons locker room at Madison Square Garden, broke that news Griffin walked past in street clothes with a pronounced limp. The sore left knee that caused Griffin to miss three games before returning against Oklahoma City last week limited Griffin’s mobility to the point that he said, “I wasn’t able to help us tonight,” after Tuesday’s comeback win over Memphis. With Griffin unable to play, the Pistons started Thon Maker and used Glenn Robinson III off the bench at his spot. Maker opened the second quarter at center with Zaza Pachulia subbing in only briefly – two minutes – before Drummond returned with five minutes left in the second quarter. The Pistons had been 1-5 in games without Griffin before the playoff-clinching win over the Knicks.
PERIMETER PUNCH – If Blake Griffin isn’t going to be available for the playoffs – and the Pistons probably have to proceed off of that assumption at this point – thethroughn among other things their 3-point shooting takes a big hit. Griffin was on pace to break Allan Houston’s record of 191 3-pointers made in 1995-96. Griffin finished with 189 triples and shot a career-best .362 from the arc. Reggie Jackson is second with 172 after he went 3 of 6 against the Knicks and Langston Galloway third with 132. But Galloway limped to the finish line, going 3 of 23 over his last four games before the finale and then missing his first two triples of the game. But in the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand, Galloway knocked down triples on consecutive possessions and that will be the impression he carries into the postseason – or so the Pistons hope. They need him to find his stroke for the playoffs. Kennard, who checked out with five minutes left one shy of his career-high of 28 points, struggled after missing the April 1 loss at Indiana with right foot soreness, but he looked as aggressive and certain of himself as he ever has in Wednesday’s finale. Without Griffin to funnel the offense through, Kennard’s playmaking ability will be even more critical to the Pistons.