Without Griffin, mistake-prone Pistons grope for scoring in loss to Pacers

Blake Griffin’s absence has been felt as the Pistons are averaging 96.7 points over the last three games he’s missed, including Wednesday’s loss to Indiana
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – For the Pistons to score enough to win while Blake Griffin’s knee recuperates, they can’t afford to give away any possessions. They gave away eight in the first 10 minutes on Wednesday.

You can guess the rest. They scored 89 points and were fighting uphill from the first few minutes of the game. They got away with a 31-point first half in their last home game – Saturday’s win over Portland, their 11th straight win at Little Caesars Arena – because they defended in swarms and watched Wayne Ellington put on a shooting clinic.

But neither thing bailed them out in what became a 108-89 loss to Indiana.

“You can’t turn the ball over 20 times and give up 20 points (off turnovers) and that was one of our goals going into the game,” Dwane Casey said afterward. “Playing in the crowd, passing in the crowd was an issue. It could be people a little out of kilter, out of their pay grade, so to speak, and those things happen.”

What he’s getting it is that without Griffin, so central to the half-court offense, other players are being asked to do things, possession after possession, that they haven’t been required to do more than every now and then all season.

“He’s a heavy dose of what we do,” Reggie Jackson admitted. “He does a great job of playing one on one, drawing double teams and making guys’ jobs easier. With him out, we have to pick it up collectively and figure out how to still get guys the ball in comfortable spots to be effective. Whenever you’re missing your main guy, it’s kind of hard playing on the fly, figuring it out. But we’ve got to adjust and we’ve got to do it quickly.”

The good news is that Griffin was upgraded on the NBA official injury report before the game to questionable. There is general optimism that he’ll be back at some point before the end of the regular season and perhaps as soon as Friday at Oklahoma City.

More good news came from the out-of-town scoreboard. Orlando pummeled the lottery-bound Knicks at home to pull within a half-game of the Pistons, but both Miami and Brooklyn lost home games – the Heat to Boston, the Nets to Toronto. The Pistons remained in the No. 6 playoff spot, a half-game ahead of the Nets in seventh and the Magic in eighth with the Heat bumped to ninth, still a game behind the Pistons. Orlando and Brooklyn have three games remaining, the Pistons and Heat four each.

One more encouraging note came in the form of Luke Kennard’s return. After missing Monday’s loss at Indiana with right foot soreness, Kennard scored 10 points – all in the first half – and appeared to move without any noticeable difficulty.

But until the Pistons see Griffin pull on his No. 23 jersey and resume his role as the hub of the offense, they need to find a way to score more efficiently. In the three games he’s missed with knee soreness, the Pistons are 1-2 and averaging 96.7 points.

“He’s another weapon for us – a big weapon,” Kennard said. “Just having him on the floor, he brings so much attention. It opens it up for everybody else. He makes everybody better. We just need to be who we are. We can’t try to force anything. We can’t try to do things we’re not comfortable with.”

It didn’t help any that Jackson picked up three fouls in less than eight minutes and sat the last 17-plus minutes of a scoreless first half, or that Ish Smith shot 1 of 7 or that Langston Galloway was 1 of 11. But the biggest issue was the 20 turnovers.

“Blake does so many things for us,” Casey said. “He’s a quasi-point guard. He takes the pressure off our point guards where they don’t have to overhandle it. Teams can’t lock in and blitz your point guards as much if he’s one of your pick-and-roll guys or primary ballhandlers. We got away with it in the Portland game.”

Griffin has been receiving daily treatment for his knee, which Casey said shows no structural damage. It’s a matter of Griffin feeling comfortable, Casey said, with the level of pain he’s experiencing. After Friday’s game at Oklahoma City, the Pistons close with three games against lottery-bound teams: Charlotte (Sunday) and Memphis (Tuesday) at home, then New York (Wednesday) on the road to close the season.

“I don’t know,” Casey said when asked if he expected Griffin would play on Friday. “You’d have to ask our medical people. I’m going with them and their decisions. I hope so. He worked the past couple of days, but just not quite right. Hopefully, he can.”

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter