Rod Beard breaks down the Pistons victory over the Wizards. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — Just when the Pistons were starting to get healthy and rack up a few wins, they got another injury.
And it’s a big one.
The team announced Friday morning that Blake Griffin has a bone bruise in his right ankle and will be out for a week, at which time his status will be re-evaluated. That means Griffin will miss the weekend back-to-back in New York against the Knicks tonight and Nets on Sunday, plus Wednesday’s matchup at home against Philadelphia 76ers.
Griffin had an MRI on Thursday after he was a late scratch for the game against the Washington Wizards at Little Caesars Arena, which the Pistons won, 103-92.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Griffin sustained the injury in Monday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers after taking a charge against Julius Randle. Griffin had played in all 25 games since the trade from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Pistons on Jan. 29, averaging 19.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists and hitting 35 percent on 3-pointers.
One of the issues with the trade for Griffin was his injury history, not playing more than 67 games in any of the past four seasons. He’s played 58 games this season and won’t surpass 62 this year.
The Pistons had been without point guard Reggie Jackson for 37 games after he suffered a right-ankle sprain on Dec. 26. Jackson and Griffin were developing more chemistry in having played together for the past five games, but the Griffin injury casts a pall on any further development.
“It’s good that there’s no long-term, major problem. It’s still disappointing because we get Reggie back for the last 12 games and you want to get our group together and now (Griffin) will miss at least the next three,” Van Gundy said Friday. “It’s disappointing, but at least there’s nothing major there.”
After the Sixers game on Wednesday, the Pistons will have four games remaining in the regular season. At 35-40, they’re five games out of the final playoff spot in the East and are still mathematically in the playoff race, though their magic number to be eliminated is three.
The biggest beneficiary to the Griffin injury looks to be second-year forward Henry Ellenson, who played at backup power forward behind Anthony Tolliver. Ellenson played 16 minutes Thursday and notched nine points on 3-of-7 shooting, including a 3-pointer, and added five rebounds.
It’s the first significant playing time for Ellenson since the Pistons acquired Griffin and if Griffin doesn’t return for the last four games, Ellenson could have an eight-game stretch to show how much he’s improved in the down time.
Ellenson has been something of a gym rat, staying after practice to put up extra shots and get work with assistant coach Otis Smith.
It’s been a tough second year, as Ellenson initially was projected to have a bigger role, but Tolliver passed him on the depth chart and it’s been an uphill climb to get playing time.
“I focus on what I can control and that’s working out, hitting the gym and the weight room. I’m focusing on the little things I have control of and not the things out of it. That’s what kept me focused and ready for (Thursday),” Ellenson said Friday.
“You put the work in (on the practice court) but being in a game is totally different. I felt good out there defensively and strong and staying home and keeping my feet in the right position and making the right calls.”
That work ethic has helped Ellenson become a team favorite, for his effort and enthusiasm and staying engaged even when he wasn’t on the court.
Ellenson generally is the first one off the bench to pep up his teammates during a timeout and to make sure the energy stays high. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
“If you watch our film, you’ll notice he’s up on every good play. He never lets his disappointment in lack of playing time affect his support for his teammates,” Van Gundy said.
“Everybody sees how hard he works every day and everybody knows he deserves to have success and they’re really happy when he has it.”
PISTONS AT KNICKS
Tipoff: 5 p.m. Saturday, Madison Square Garden, New York
Outlook: The Pistons (35-40) have won five of their last six but are closing in on elimination from playoff contention, with a magic number of three. Anthony Tolliver is likely to start for Blake Griffin (right-ankle bone bruise).