Pistons see 25-point lead evaporate as Williams sizzles off Clippers bench
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 111-101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Little Caesars Arena
WILLIAMS EXPLODES – A 25-point lead in the first half isn’t an ironclad guarantee of victory, but a 19-point lead late in the third quarter should be pretty safe. Not when Lou Williams is in the building, apparently. The reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year probably secured a repeat on the strength of Saturday’s game alone, scoring 18 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter to hand the Pistons a stinging loss. Up 19 with 2:33 left in the third quarter, the Clippers cut it to 11 entering the fourth quarter and then scored the first seven points to pull within four. They tied the game at 89 with 8:22 to play and took their first lead since 1-0 with 6:18 to go. The Pistons scored 40 first-quarter points and forced Doc Rivers to burn three timeouts in the game’s first six minutes. Foul trouble plagued the Pistons as Andre Drummond played just one minute of the third quarter with four fouls and fouled out in 22 minutes. The Clippers shot 34 free throws and the frequent fouling, starting in the second quarter, undermined the rhythm the Pistons established in a first quarter in which they made eight 3-pointers. The Pistons committed sixh fourth-quarter turnovers, all in the first six minutes, and missed eight straight 3-pointers at one point. Reggie Jackson, averaging 17.8 points and 6.5 assists and shooting nearly 50 percent overall and 40 percent from three in his last four games entering Saturday, scored a season-high 29.
RETURN OF ISH, II – Ish Smith made his second return from a right adductor injury after missing the last six games and – given Reggie Jackson’s notable uptick in play of late – suddenly point guard could again become a position of strength for the Pistons. Smith finished with six points and two assists in 12 minutes.The bench didn’t post big numbers in the first half when handed a big lead, but it at least held its own. The second half was another story. Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard finished minus-15 and minus-16 in their minutes. The Clippers bench, led by Williams, outscored the Pistons 80-17 – and outscored Clippers starters 80-31. Smith originally was diagnosed with a torn right adductor suffered Dec. 5 at Milwaukee. After missing about six weeks and 19 games, Smith returned on Jan. 14 and played two nights later. In his third game back on Jan. 18, Smith played less than two minutes when he felt tightness in the area of the injury. The diagnosis this time was tightness in the muscle. It was 15 days from the second injury to his return against the Clippers.
TRADE GAP – It was a year ago this week that the Pistons traded for Blake Griffin, sending Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a No. 1 pick to the Clippers. In the two games the teams played this season, Griffin outscored Harris, Bradley and Marjanovic 68-37. Throw in Shea Gilgeous-Alexander, the player the Clippers eventually got with the first-round pick, and it’s still lopsided. Griffin scored 44 three weeks ago when the Pistons won at Los Angeles 109-104. He was at the heart of Saturday’s fast start, too, with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in 10 first-quarter minutes. Griffin had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists by halftime. Harris and Bradley endured scoreless first halfs for the Clippers, shooting a combined 0 of 7. Marjanovic, who didn’t play in the first meeting, had seven points and nine rebounds in 12 first-half minutes and finished with 24. Harris missed his first eight shots and finished with seven points. Bradley had six.