Pistons forward Blake Griffin savored the sweet taste of revenge on Saturday afternoon with a win over his former team. The Los Angeles Clippers traded the star to Detroit at the deadline in 2018. In his return to Staples Center, Griffin dropped 44 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
While the main headline was the drama surrounding the ins and outs of this physical, hard-fought game between a good Clippers team and its former face of the franchise, this game could have meant a little more for the Pistons than just Griffin’s vengeance. The win was much needed, to say the least.
When we take a look at how the Pistons arrived with the win over the Clippers, the word “refreshing” is actually quite fitting. The starting unit looked great, as Griffin led the way. Andre Drummond turned in another vintage 20-20 game (20 points, 21 rebounds). Reggie Jackson and Reggie Bullock combined for 27 points and eight assists.
The game got tight down the stretch, tied at 97 with less than 5 minutes to play, and the Pistons gutted it out with some impressive defensive stands to win 109-104. It just felt right that the Pistons finally won a game this way again.
Detroit has plummeted from fourth, to fifth, and now all the way down to ninth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. After a five-game winning streak at the end of November to give the Pistons a 12-7 record, a convincing sixth win in a row over the defending champion Golden State Warriors appeared to be the Pistons’ official arrival party.
And then, the Pistons showed us that we got way too far ahead of ourselves. WAY too far. A string of six losses jump-started a run of 16 losses in 21 games. That was, for lack of a better term (or not), pathetic.
But, as we well know, it’s a long season. It’s not over until all 82 games have been played. For coach Dwane Casey, this most recent win could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Adversity has been plentiful as of late, as the Pistons currently sit on an 18-23 record. The good news is the upcoming schedule is surely favorable to the Pistons, that’s of course if the they play hard and play to win night in and night out for 48 minutes.
Looking ahead, the Pistons continue their road trip with a second crack at the Utah Jazz after losing by five in the last matchup. After that, they’ll return home to host three mediocre ball clubs in the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings. The Pistons can win these games, and therefore re-establish a presence in the playoff race.
In weeks to come, they’ll also take on the Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks twice. None of those teams’ records place higher than 11th in their respective conferences.
Something else to look forward to for Detroit is the return of backup point guard Ish Smith. The Pistons are just 6-14 since Smith went down with an adductor muscle tear in December. His presence as a member of the second unit has been greatly missed, as he’s averaging 9.2 points and 3 assists in 24 minutes per game.
Now cleared for full basketball activity, Smith is questionable for the matchup with the Jazz on Monday night. His return will help this team tremendously.
The point is, don’t throw in the towel on the 2018-19 Pistons just yet. The toughest part of the schedule is behind them, and they just officially hit the halfway mark with their 41st contest. Though their current record of five games below .500 isn’t great by any stretch of the word, there’s plenty of time to climb back up in the standings.
With a gameplan of playing offense through Griffin, Drummond hitting the glass and efficient guard play, the Pistons can reposition themselves for an exciting run. Stay tuned.