The Pistons have lost four straight games, but coach Dwane Casey says resting Blake Griffin is "prudent." Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Philadelphia — The Pistons already have had their troubles during a brutal stretch in their schedule. Now, they’ll have to take on their nemesis without their best player.
Coach Dwane Casey announced before Monday’s matchup against the Sixers that Blake Griffin will miss the game and rest. It’s the first game Griffin has missed this season, as he’s put up All-Star-worthy numbers.
The Pistons had lost four straight, including squandering a 15-point lead at home against the Sixers on Friday. It also adds to an injury list that includes Stanley Johnson (left knee bruise), Reggie Bullock (ankle sprain) and Ish Smith (right adductor tear).
“It was very tough because of the malaise we’re in right now and the tough spot in the season we are right now,” Casey said. “We need all the healthy hands we can get and with Bullock out and Stanley — we’ll find out at game time — and Ish, it made it even tougher.
“Blake’s health is very important for us in the long run and we have to be smart and prudent with how we manage his minutes and manage his rest with all the games coming.”
Griffin had feasted on the Sixers in their first three meetings of the season, with 51, 38 and 31 points. Amid their skid, the Pistons ideally didn’t want to rest Griffin, but the situation called for it, with a back-to-back following Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans and a day off before playing at Charlotte on Wednesday.
In Sunday’s loss, Griffin had a collision with Pelicans big man Anthony Davis and Griffin looked to hurt his knee. That helped make the decision to sit Griffin on Monday a little easier.
“We had talked about it beforehand. That’s quickened it as far as when we wanted to. He has a lot of miles, a lot of minutes and a lot of usage on his body,” Casey said. “We wanted to be smart and prudent, but it’s difficult to do.”
Griffin has been the Pistons’ leading scorer and the hub through which they run their offense. Having him out of the lineup wasn’t ideal, but Casey said they considered the long-term issues instead of worrying about just one game.
It was a front-office decision, not just Casey’s, but Griffin was good with the decision.
“I’m sure he’s not 100 percent happy with it. He’s a competitor and wants to play but is also smart enough to understand the big picture and marathon portion of the thought process,” Casey said. “It’s not like he jumped up and down and said no but he wasn’t excited about it. He understands and he’s on board with it.”
With Griffin out, the Pistons inserted Jon Leuer in the starting lineup and Luke Kennard got his first start of the season. It was a lineup shuffle, with Reggie Jackson and Bruce Brown, along with Drummond.
The injuries still are biting the Pistons — and forced them to call the offense differently with a different group of starters. Leuer has been improving in the past week or two, so it was an opportunity for him to do it in extended minutes.
“He’s been out for a long time with injuries and surgery this summer. He’s finally getting that bounce he had when he was first signed here, which is great to see,” Casey said. “Same with Luke, both those guys are just getting that bounce back from injuries.”
For Leuer, who had nine points and four rebounds against the Pelicans, it’s a relief to see that the shots are falling and he’s getting back to where he was in 2016-17, before missing 74 games last season because of an ankle injury.
“That’s what you do all the rehab and work for — to have those opportunities to come in and play meaningful minutes,” Leuer said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do, give max effort in rehab and taking care of my body. It’s paying off for me.”