My Detroit Sports: #MyPistons Weekly #8

What a difference a week makes! The Pistons look a lot different in this installment of My Pistons Weekly. Andre Drummond was named an All-Star replacement and got an All-Star teammate. Detroit pulled off a blockbuster trade with Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and 2018 1st/2019 2nd round picks going to the Clippers for five time All-Star Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed. We discussed the long term implications and risk of this trade, Pistons Bet Big on Blake, but in the meantime it has energized the Pistons roster. It shows a certain confidence in the players on the roster and the front office’s dedication to a playoff appearance. With the February 8th trade deadline rapidly approaching there may be more roster moves by our next weekly report.

The Pistons started off their week playing the Oklahoma City Thunder at home on Saturday. The Thunder got off to a strong start in this game, with Paul George scoring 10 points as part of a 26-10 OKC run covering the second half of the 1st quarter. The deficit ballooned to as many as 26 points in the second half. Although Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris had strong performances, with 12 points/13 rebounds and 21 points respectively, the rest of the starters were only able to combine for 11 points. The bench attempted to rally back and shaved the lead down to 9 points in the 4th quarter but could get no closer. Ish, Kennard, Reggie Bullock, and Boban all scored in double figures off the bench with Anthony Tolliver chipping in 8. It wasn’t enough, as the Pistons fell by a final score of 121-108. Turnovers doomed Detroit and extended the losing streak, as the the Pistons turned the ball over 16 times to Oklahoma City’s 9. Carmelo Anthony’s 25,000th career point and a triple double by Russell Westbrook were overshadowed by the season ending injury to Andre Roberson. He was carried off the court on a stretcher after slipping and falling in the 3rd quarter.

The Pistons then traveled to Cleveland for the first of a home and home matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Avery Bradley out having re-aggravated his injury against OKC, Stan Van Gundy went with Anthony Tolliver and a larger lineup. Anthony Tolliver rewarded his confidence with a 20 point and 5 assist performance. Both teams needed a win in the worst way, but couldn’t build a lead larger than 6 for most of the game. Unfortunately, the Cavs got hot down the stretch, using a 13-2 run over the last 3 and half minutes for a 121-104 final score.

By the time the Pistons played the Cavaliers again on Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena, the team had been energized by the trade for Blake Griffin and the announcement that Andre Drummond had been named as an All-Star replacement for John Wall.

However, this left the Pistons shorthanded, as none of the newly acquired players were available. Stan Van Gundy stayed with a lineup of 3 forwards, Andre, and Ish Smith with Stanley Johnson replacing Tobias Harris. The Cavs were shorthanded as well with Kevin Love breaking his hand in the first quarter. The energy and excitement was palpable as the Pistons led by as many as 12 in the 1st quarter before a 6-0 run over the last minute and change allowed the Cavs to get back in the game. The Cavs used a 6-0 run at the end of the 2nd quarter to take a lead into the half. It was all Pistons in the second half, as Detroit outscored Cleveland 66-51 and cruised to a 125-114 victory to snap the 8 game losing streak. Stanley Johnson had a career high 26 points and 10 rebounds, Andre Drummond had 22 points, 20 rebounds, and 7 assists, and every starter scored at least 19 points. Dwight Buycks added 11 points off the bench.

Pistons fans got their first look at Blake Griffin Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. The atmosphere was electric as fans made signs, wore newly purchased #23 jerseys, and cheered everything Blake Griffin did from the introduction onward. He did not disappoint with a 24 point/10 rebound/5 assist effort, becoming the second player to reach those numbers in their first game in a Pistons uniform. The first was another All-NBA forward, Grant Hill, who was in town Tuesday calling the game as part of the TNT Players Only broadcast. He did so opening night his rookie season against the Lakers. It is clear that the talented front court duo will enjoy playing together and passing to each other, but it will take time to develop the type of chemistry required to make the most of the All-Star pairing. What was clear was just how much both players want to make this work. The Pistons stuck with the 3 forward lineup, with Anthony Tolliver coming off the bench. He was also the hero of the game late in the 4th quarter. His 3 pointer with under 2 minutes remaining gave the Pistons a 101-100 lead they would not relinquish. He also had some key plays in the final seconds. He ended up with his hands on the ball off a missed JaMychal Green dunk in a scrum to force a jump ball. After a Pistons time out, he was fouled and hit his free throws to give the Pistons a 103-100 lead. He also wisely fouled Wayne Selden before he could get into his shooting motion to give him 2 free throws rather than allow him to attempt to tie the game with 2 seconds left. Selden hit both, even after attempting to miss the 2nd, Reggie Bullock went 1 for 2 at the line, and Marc Gasol’s last second attempt missed to secure a 104-102 Pistons victory. Everyone in the starting lineup scored in double figures, Andre Drummond had a double double, and the team and fan base was energized with this exciting victory.

After meeting the fans at the annual season ticket holder event Friday, the Pistons faced Eastern Conference foe Miami tonight at home. The Heat are fighting for a playoff spot as well behind their own All-Star snub turned replacement, Goran Dragic. The Pistons were shorthanded with Dwight Buycks and Luke Kennard both unavailable. Once again the Pistons got off to a strong start, but allowed their opponent to get back in the game. An early 10 point lead was cut to 1 by the end of the 1st quarter, and neither team could build more than a 6 point until late in the 4th. Goran Dragic’s jumper tied it at 101 with a little under 3 minutes to play. That’s when Ish Smith and Blake Griffin took over. Ish answered with a jumper of his own, and assisted on a key 3 pointer by Blake Griffin with under a minute to play. Goran Dragic’s 4 point play turned it into a single possession game, but Blake returned the favor by finding Ish Smith behind the arc with 14 seconds to play. That gave the Pistons a 6 point lead and James Johnson’s shot at the buzzer made it a 111-107 Pistons victory. Andre Drummond had 23 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks. Ish Smith had 25 points and 7 assists. Blake Griffin had 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Langston Galloway and Anthony Tolliver chipped in 13 points a piece of the bench.

The 3 game winning streak puts the Pistons just 1 game under .500 and half a game back of the Philadelphia 76’ers for the 8th seed. The homestand continues with games against the Portland Trailblazers on Monday, Nets on Wednesday, and Clippers on Friday. ESPN has added Friday’s game against the Clippers to their broadcast schedule. The Pistons will need to find some answers at shooting guard before Thursday’s trade deadline. They will also need to win these home games as they make their push back into the playoff picture.

With Blake Griffin in the house, many fans already purchased their #23 jersey in support of the new star! These fans represented ‘Detroit Basketball’ in this week’s #MyPistons ‘Fans of the Week’!

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