Stars Griffin, Rose come out in last 2 minutes as Pistons score ‘grind-it-out’ win over Pacers
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DETROIT – The fine line between gut-wrenching losses and exhilarating wins is often straddled best by superstars. That’s why they’re superstars, after all. Witness Friday’s last two minutes and what Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin did for the Pistons in their 108-101 win over Indiana.
The Pistons played a sublime first half, smothering Indiana defensively – the Pacers shot 33 percent and scored 44 points, 17 of them in the five-plus minutes Andre Drummond rested to start the second quarter. And they played a wretched third quarter, giving Indiana the desirable shots unavailable to them in the first half, to wind up trailing by four going into the fourth quarter.
At which point it became, in Dwane Casey’s words, “a playoff-style game.” Tied at 99 with a little more than a minute to play, here’s what Rose and Griffin did on the next three possessions:
“He was the MVP for a reason,” Griffin said of Rose, who was a mere 5 of 15 before drilling his two crunch-time baskets. “He’s very poised with the ball in his hands. Doesn’t get rattled, doesn’t get sped up, really, especially in late game. That was really, really good execution. About as well as we could’ve done it.”
It was Griffin nine days ago who pulled Rose aside when his last-possession miscue led to the Pistons failing to get off a shot in a gut-punch loss at Charlotte, saying he’d want him with the ball in similar situations unfailingly. Casey went back to him the next chance the Pistons got in a game that came down to the wire.
“I’ve always said, it’s going to take Derrick time to get his sea legs,” Casey said. “I’m always going to believe in Derrick Rose. He’s not the Derrick Rose of 10 years ago, but still, three quarters of Derrick Rose is more than most teams.”
Griffin finished with 25 points and Rose with 14 plus five assists and six rebounds. But if you’re handing out gold stars, save one for Andre Drummond. Drummond recorded his fifth 20-20 game of the season and his first since Nov. 2 with 25 points, 22 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Mainly on his back, the Pistons amassed a whopping 51-33 rebounding and a 25-2 second-chance points edge.
“I thought he was a monster down the stretch,” Casey said. “Twenty-five and 22 – huge night for Andre.”
“We were great on the boards tonight. I think me and Dre combined for like 24, 25,” Griffin grinned. “When he’s rebounding it like that, that level, he’s getting balls out of his area, offensive rebounds, missed shots, getting us another chance. As a team, I think we did a good job of keeping their bigs off of the boards.”
Casey talked before the game about the process of infusing a team with the level of physicality needed to become consistently good – the type of team others hate playing. He cited division rivals like Milwaukee and Indiana.
So there was no small measure of satisfaction derived from pulling out a win against a team that’s 13-5 against the rest of the NBA but 1-3 against the Pistons this season.
“I think we definitely played tough tonight,” Drummond said. “Everybody, one through 12, the guys that played, when they came in the game they sustained the same toughness and the outcome was a win. We played our (backsides) off in that fourth quarter and came out with a great win.”
For all of the physical toughness they displayed, it was equally important for what it could mean for the rest of their season that they displayed a mental toughness needed to rebound from a disastrous third quarter in which the Pistons were outscored 31-16 and gave up one fewer basket (13) than Indiana scored in the entire first half.
“I just liked the way we stuck together,” Griffin said. “We got up early and then they made a run. But we stayed together. The second unit was great, got us good communication on the bench and got it done.”
“We stuck together,” Casey said. “Like I told the team just now, it’s never always going to be pretty. Some are going to have to be grind-it-out games. So we had to make sure we stayed with our nose to the grind. We could’ve easily taken a step back and relaxed a little bit, but everybody that went in the game kept the foot to the pedal and did their job.”