Pistons stun Clippers to open West Coast trip
Los Angeles — Coach Stan Van Gundy was asked about how the Pistons would defend Blake Griffin. He provided a non-specific answer, hinting that several players would take turns.
Van Gundy got his answer in the second quarter: Anthony Tolliver.
Tolliver helped slow Griffin, who had 14 of his 19 points in the first half, and the Pistons turned up the defense around him, getting out in transition and running the Clippers to their first loss of the season, 95-87, on Saturday night at Staples Center.
The victory was the Pistons’ first road win at the Clippers since Nov. 12, 2010 and provided some kick for their three-game road trip west, which moves to Oakland for a date with the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
“Any win builds your confidence but on the road, especially with a team who had been playing extremely well, it definitely helps,” a jubilant Van Gundy said.
Tolliver had some help.
Andre Drummond had 15 points and 17 rebounds and Langston Galloway sparked the fourth-quarter surge with 11 of his 13 points in a sizzling five-minute span for the Pistons (4-2).
It was their defense that kept them in the game, holding the Clippers to six points in the final six minutes, while the offense put things away.
“I thought Andre was terrific tonight, absolutely terrific,” Van Gundy said. “That’s one of the best games he’s played since I’ve been here. He’s put up bigger numbers but his game was outstanding tonight.”
The Pistons looked to be done in the third quarter, after cutting the lead to 58-57 on a hook by Drummond. The Clippers (4-1) countered with four straight 3-pointers, Austin Rivers (20 points), Patrick Beverley and two by Danilo Gallinari (13 points). The Pistons answered with seven straight points, with Drummond splitting a pair of free throws and adding a lay-in and Tobias Harris (12 points) a dunk and two free throws.
Griffin (19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) followed with a reverse scoop and the Clippers led, 72-67, heading into the fourth.
“We fought really hard in the second and our defense was outstanding in the second half,” Van Gundy said. “We made enough shots at the right time to get the job done, but it was really our defense.”
Galloway hit a 3-pointer to trim the lead to three. He started the decisive run with a jumper, followed by a transition 3-pointer by Stanley Johnson (nine points). Galloway capped the spurt with a 3-pointer for an 80-76 lead, the Pistons’ first of the second half.
After a jumper by Lou Williams, Galloway hit his third 3-pointer and Gallinari answered with a 3-pointer with 6:58 left but Tolliver helped stretch the lead with a lay-in and a putback dunk, pushing it to 87-81. Beverley hit another 3-pointer but Tolliver followed with his best defensive play, getting a block on a shot in the paint and preserving the advantage.
“I’m just a guy who tries to go in and help the team win however I can,” Tolliver said. “I just tried to make him work … (Griffin’s) a great player and he’ll probably be first-team all-NBA this year — he’s playing at that level right now.”
Tolliver came through again, hitting a 3-pointer, for a six-point margin, and Jackson scored on a floater in the lane, giving the Pistons their largest lead, 92-84, with 2:18 left.
Gallinari got another 3-pointer to fall and the lead was down to five. The Pistons were able to hit three free throws in the final minute and keep the Clippers at bay.