Rod Beard breaks down the Pistons' win over the Trail Blazers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — And the streak goes on.
The Pistons continued their ascent — the “Blake Effect” since the Blake Griffin trade — with an infusion of energy and verve. The past week since the trade has seen them go from an eight-game skid to a push to .500 and solidly back in the playoff picture.
The Pistons did it again, this time with defense, clamping down on the Portland Trail Blazers and dishing out a season-high 36 assists in an impressive 111-91 victory Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Griffin had 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Andre Drummond 17 points, 17 rebounds five assists and three blocks and Anthony Tolliver added 15 points for the Pistons (26-26) who got back to .500 for the first time since Jan. 19.
It’s their fourth straight win — all at home — with two more games, versus the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, left on the six-game home stand.
“It can only get better from here. With (Griffin's) addition, it’s just been a lot of fun,” Drummond said. “He’s able to handle the ball; he’s a great playmaker. He’s doing a great job of adjusting right now.
“We really didn’t understand what was going to happen when we first got him; we didn’t know how long it was going to take for him to adjust, but him being the professional that he is, he adjusted very quickly. Three wins are already showing it.”
The Trail Blazers (29-25) were on the second night of a back-to-back and couldn’t get the shots to fall after the Pistons clamped down on defense, with Drummond patrolling the post and Stanley Johnson helping to shadow Damian Lillard (20 points, five rebounds and five assists) and C.J. McCollum (14 points) on the perimeter.
Stan Van Gundy talks about the Pistons' win over the Trail Blazers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
It was an adjustment that assistant coach Malik Allen suggested in the game plan: Put the bigger Johnson, the Pistons’ best perimeter defender, on the smaller guards to make it harder for them to find room.
“Malik had the game plan tonight and I was surprised at the matchups; we didn’t know (Evan) Turner wasn’t going to play so I thought he’d want him on Turner but he suggested we put him on McCollum to start,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Those guys are tough matchups — you’re chasing them around and they’re tough on pick-and-rolls. Really hard to play.”
The Pistons had a 49-43 lead at halftime and pulled away with a 14-2 run midway through the third quarter. Johnson (eight points) hit a 3-pointer and Ish Smith added a jumper. Griffin hit a jumper and found Drummond on a lob pass for a lay-in. Johnson scored on a putback and Luke Kennard hit a 3-pointer for a 75-57 advantage with 3:07 left in the third.
Lillard helped Portland pull within 12 with a three-point play in the final seconds, heading to the fourth, but the Pistons kept coming, with a 15-7 spurt to pull away and push the lead to 20.
Tolliver continued his strong play of the past two weeks with a driving dunk and a 3-pointer on the next possession. After a Lillard 3-pointer, Tolliver added a 3-pointer and the lead was 97-77 with 6:19 left.
The Pistons coasted from there, for their fourth straight impressive win since the Griffin trade.
Here are some other observations from the Pistons’ win:
■Kennard returned from a toe injury, which caused him to miss Saturday’s game against the Heat. Kennard was moving well and involved in the offense with the reserve group, posting 12 points and four assists in 24 minutes. He showed an array of moves, from midrange jumpers to 3-pointers.
■Coach Stan Van Gundy is looking to keep either Drummond or Griffin on the court at all times, providing a solid post presence and a go-to player in the paint. They both responded well playing together, but also separately, as the Pistons played some of their best rotational defense with Drummond getting some good stops with his footwork.
■Langston Galloway continued his improvement, with 13 points and six assists in 19 minutes, going 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 on 3-pointers. Playing mostly backup point guard, he was in control and had good pace to his game, building on some struggles he’s had in past weeks.
■With some injuries and the lopsided fourth-quarter margin, the Pistons got some time for their two-way players, Kay Felder and Reggie Hearn, in the final three minutes. Hearn hit a 3-pointer and Felder went 0-for-2.