Stagnant fourth quarter clips Pistons' win streak
Detroit — The matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers wasn’t as much of a reunion as many had projected to be. There were some pregame daps and hugs between Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic with their former Pistons teammates.
There was a welcome-back ovation from the fans at Little Caesars Arena — loudest for Harris — during pregame introductions. The rest of the night was about basketball and looking to continue the Pistons’ five-game win streak.
It didn’t happen.
The Clippers outscored the Pistons in the fourth quarter, 31-15, buoyed by a 15-5 run in the first six minutes of the period and pulled away for a 108-95 victory over the Pistons on Friday night, before a better-than-expected crowd of 16,697 who braved the heavy snowfall to watch Blake Griffin take on his former team.
Griffin finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Reggie Bullock added 19 points and Andre Drummond had 12 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks for the Pistons (27-27), whose win streak ended as they closed their impressive six-game home stand. They hit the road for the first time since Jan. 29 to face the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
All eyes were on Griffin, who was facing his former team for the first time since the trade that shocked the NBA on Jan. 29, with Clippers parting with their franchise player for a trio of Pistons. The trade has worked out for both teams, but Griffin was stunned that he didn’t hear about the trade until he found out on social media.
Those emotions didn’t get in the way of the game, though there were some chippy moments.
“I don’t think anything got crazy. We didn’t play the way we wanted to and I didn’t play the way I wanted to,” Griffin said. “That’s the NBA. We had a good five-game run. We’ll get back to work tomorrow and we’ll have three more games before the (All-Star) break and try to finish out strong.
“There’s a chance for it to get chippy with any team I play against; this wasn’t anything out of the norm. We fought at times but we didn’t come up with the plays, especially in the fourth quarter. To their credit, they did.”
The Pistons had their worst game of the recent stretch, with a stagnant offense that produced only 15 points in final quarter, going 5-for-19 (26 percent) from the field, while the Clippers (28-25) shot 57 percent.
The fourth quarter was the undoing, when Lou Williams had 13 of his 26 points and Austin Rivers six of his 16. The former Pistons also chipped in: Harris had 12 points and eight rebounds and Bradley had 10 points and eight rebounds in their return to Detroit.
“It’s a good win. More than anything, we’re looking big picture, to be in the playoffs. (The Pistons) are a team that’s been playing really well,” Harris said. “They won five or six straight and have been playing really well at home, too.”
The Pistons had their last lead, 82-79, after Drummond’s tip at the 11:32 mark. Montrezl Harrell had a dunk and then two free throws on the next possession and Williams added a 3-pointer to put the Clippers ahead, 86-82.
Harrell (18 points) got a technical foul and Luke Kennard hit the free throw and Anthony Tolliver (12 points) followed with a pair of free throws. The Clippers got their big run going with a sweeping hook from Harrell, a lay-in by Rivers and another basket in by DeAndre Jordan (four points, 17 rebounds).
Drummond ended the spurt with a lay-in, but the Clippers kept pouring it on with another drive by Rivers and a jumper by Williams to push the lead to 14. The Pistons didn’t have an answer on offense, with their fourth-quarter struggles.
“We had absolutely no ball movement, particularly down the stretch in the fourth quarter. We had no ball movement at all and no player movement,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That was probably even worse than the ball movement. It was a just a stand-around quarter. Everything was just one-on-one and isolation. Not just Blake, other guys, it was just one-on-one basketball — very bad basketball.”
The game had a little chippiness to it, with five technical fouls. Bradley and Griffin got into a little dust-up after a foul call and both received a technical. Jordan, Harrell and Drummond also each got one technical foul.
It was at times emotional, but that’s part of the game.
“Both teams wanted to win the game. It’s an important game for both teams,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You’ll see a lot of that the rest of the season, probably, because it’s a playoff run for everybody, so every game is important.
“Both teams feel the importance. I didn’t think it was that much stuff with Blake and our guys. I thought both teams wanted to win the game.”
Griffin got the Little Caesars Arena crowd roaring when he got a block and saved the ball out of bounds off of Harrell. It was a good hustle play and showed his intensity against his former team.
Austin Rivers returned for the first time after missing 18 games with an injury. He looked fine and in condition, playing 32 minutes and finishing with 16 points and five assists.
“Eighteen games. This is the most games that I’ve ever missed. It was new for me,” Rivers said. “I had to take the rehab process a bit more seriously. But I feel great though. I’ve been conditioning so hard; I wasn’t even tired out there. I thought I was going to have an early wind, but I wasn’t tired at all.”
Rivers went 7-of-13 from the field, with a pair of 3-pointers.