Bad Boys reunion inspires stifling defense

Pistons use stellar defensive performance to down Trail Blazers without Blake Griffin


Trent Balley, Detroit Sports Columnist

Arguably for the first time, Little Caesars Arena felt like the good old Palace of Auburn Hills. The Detroit Pistons held a reunion for the 30-year anniversary of the 1988-89 “Bad Boys” championship team, and the community really showed up for it. A packed house of 21,000 cheered on the Pistons to a hard-earned 99-90 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

When All-Star Blake Griffin was a late scratch due to knee soreness, the Pistons were short-pressed to gameplan without their best offensive option. The confusion was evident early, as the Pistons managed only 11 points in the entire first quarter, including 11 missed field goals to open the game. The difference? Defense.

While the Pistons struggled to put the ball in the basket, they kept themselves in the game by giving the Trail Blazers all sorts of the same problems on their end of the floor, holding Portland to 14 first-quarter points. The Bad Boys would have been proud. Scratch that; the Bad Boys were proud, as they watched from courtside.

A 34-31 Blazers halftime lead prompted Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas to urge the crowd during the halftime ceremony. Thomas asked the fans to continue to embrace the Pistons, as their support is what ultimately makes the wheels turn for a championship run. Well, the crowd must have heard their old point guard loud and clear.

The Pistons exploded in the second half, outscoring Portland 68-56 and keeping the defensive intensity at 100 percent all the while. Perhaps Reggie Jackson should have sewed another number one on the back of his jersey, as he performed his best Isiah rendition with 28 points and five assists. Andre Drummond also turned in another monster night with 22 points and 19 rebounds, not to mention four assists, four steals and three rejections.

Drummond’s defense was only one cog in the defensive machine that was the Detroit Pistons. The team combined for eight steals and six blocks while forcing 17 Portland turnovers on the night. Overall, the Pistons held the Blazers to 90 points, which is 24 points lower than their season average.

Portland’s 114.7 points per game is good enough for the sixth highest scoring offense in the league… and the Pistons shut ‘em down with the old fashioned brand of Detroit Basketball. It all starts with defense, something the Bad Boys brought every single night.

“It’s good to have them here,” Jackson told FOX Sports Detroit’s Johnny Kane after the win. “It’s an honor any time you have them back in the building. To play well in front of them and especially get a win on their night is magnificent.”

The win pushes the Pistons to 39 wins on the season as they currently sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. If the season ended now, they’d face the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round for the first Pistons playoff appearance since 2015-16.

Grinding out a win without his best player in Griffin has to feel good for coach Dwane Casey as the remaining schedule dwindles. The fans obviously loved it as well. Detroit’s PA announcer, John Mason, rallied the crowd one last time as the final buzzer sounded. “BAAAAAD BOYS!” he proclaimed behind the roar of Detroit.