Pistons wilt under Gasol's 38, skid at 4
Auburn Hills — Andre Drummond has seen similar performances a few times in his five seasons in the NBA. Jon Leuer had a front-row seat in his two-plus seasons in Memphis.
This version of Marc Gasol was different, though.
The Pistons didn’t have any answers for the Grizzlies center, who hit baskets in the paint, connected on long jumpers and knocked down tough shots from almost everywhere on the court on the way to tying his career high with 38 points.
Gasol’s effort guided Memphis to a 98-86 win, dealing the Pistons their fourth straight loss, on Wednesday night at The Palace. He finished 14-of-17 from the field, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers and added five rebounds and four assists.
“It’s tough to guard somebody who gets into a rhythm like that. He got it going early and got a couple quick buckets. When you get going that early, everything feels good after that,” said Drummond, who had 13 points and 19 rebounds. “He was taking contested turnaround jump shots, contested threes and was hitting them. There’s not much you can do when he’s in that type of groove.”
Gasol got going in the first quarter, with back-to-back baskets for a 13-10 lead at the 5:08 mark. That started a stretch in which he scored 10 of the Grizzlies next 12 points, along with a jumper by Vince Carter. Memphis (19-12) had a 13-0 run and pulled ahead, 26-14, with 1:08 left.
Leuer was slated to be in the starting lineup, until he was involved in a car accident and went to a hospital on Wednesday morning. He managed to make the game and had 18 points in 30 minutes.
Leuer stopped the run with a 3-pointer and Aron Baynes added a layin, but Carter’s 3-pointer with 22.1 seconds left made it 29-19 after the first quarter. The lead built to 18 in the second quarter but the Pistons chipped away, with a 14-2 run — including six points by Leuer and seven by Reggie Jackson (18 points and seven assists), but Leuer hit a fadeaway and made all three free throws after being fouled with 1.4 seconds for a 53-44 lead at halftime.
It was a reprise to what Leuer saw in his time with the Grizzlies, when he and Gasol used to go head-to-head on a daily basis.
“We used to play one-on-one after practice every day. I’ve been on that end of it a couple times and once he gets going like that and he’s hitting the fadeaways and threes (it’s tough),” Leuer said. “He’s such a smart player too that he’s not going to force any shots and just make the right play. When he’s making shots like that, it makes it really tough to defend him.”
The Pistons (14-17) got a scare when Jackson went to the locker room in the first quarter because of knee soreness, but he said he was fine and returned later in the period and played 25 minutes, without much issue from the knee.
Jackson helped the Pistons get within 65-61 with 6:00 left in the third period, off a back-door pass from Drummond. But the Grizzlies answered with a 14-0 run, including eight points from Gasol and four free throws from Andrew Harrison. Leuer had a jumper in the final minute to make it a 79-63 deficit entering the fourth period.
Although the Pistons have had their struggles with defense during the losing streak, their undoing against the Grizzlies was in shots not falling, hitting just 36 percent for the game, with only 26 percent (6-of-23) on 3-pointers.
“(The difference) was clearly our offense. We didn’t play well defensively in the first quarter, but after that I thought our defense was good — other than on Gasol,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I thought our guys fought. Offensively, we just couldn’t get anything going whatsoever.”
The Pistons threatened in the fourth quarter, with a 13-4 spurt, cutting it to 88-81 after two free throws and a jumper from Jackson, but Troy Daniels answered with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 10.