Griffin is hero and goat as Pistons fall short against Bucks
Detroit — Sometimes, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Sometimes, they tell conflicting stories. For Blake Griffin, one story was his triple-double. The other story was his fourth double: 10 turnovers.
That stat was more telling in why the Pistons dropped a 107-104 loss — their seventh in the last eight games — to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
The good: Griffin finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his first triple-double of the season and second with the Pistons (14-14).
The bad: The 10 turnovers contributed to the Bucks getting in transition and benefiting with easy baskets, including 64 points in the paint.
The Pistons trailed by 15 in the third quarter but took the lead in the final period and Griffin had two good looks at potential tying 3-pointers in the final seconds.
“I was unbelievably awful tonight. We had a chance to tie it despite everything I did. We’re not going to win games if I have 10 turnovers and make the poor decisions like I did down the stretch,” said Griffin, who was 4-of-13 from the field. “I feel bad for these guys because they played so hard and got us back in this game — and I wasn’t there for them tonight.”
Reggie Bullock had a career-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers and Stanley Johnson added 20 points off the bench.
The second quarter was the Pistons’ undoing, as the Bucks raced to a 30-16 advantage, for a 55-43 halftime lead.
Griffin had 12 points and six assists in the third quarter but only one point and four turnovers in the final period.
“Him having 10 turnovers is very unfortunate — he had 11 assists but 10 turnovers,” coach Dwane Casey said. “With him, they’re not really double-teaming; they’re collapsing. Once he puts it on the floor or turns his back, they are coming and crushing him.
“He’s got to get a rhythm of seeing them coming, getting a feel for it and making sure his timing of passing the ball out is there.”
The Bucks (20-9) had an 81-67 lead in the final minutes of the third quarter, but the Pistons mounted a rally. They scored the last 10 points of the period, with a dunk by Johnson, two free throws from Griffin and a lay-in from Jon Leuer off a pass from Griffin, to close within seven.
Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated inside, going 15-of-21 from the field, and finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. He opened the fourth with a three-point play but Johnson and Langston Galloway answered with back-to-back 3-pointers — part of a 22-5 run that pulled the Pistons ahead, 89-86, on Johnson’s 3-pointer with 9:01 remaining.
D.J. Wilson answered with a lay-in and Sterling Brown had a drive and a 3-pointer during the Bucks’ 9-2 response, with two more free throws from Khris Middleton (22 points and six assists).
Johnson fueled the Pistons’ comeback with four 3-pointers, part of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. His last 3-pointer pulled the Pistons within 100-99.
The Pistons had another run, with a mix of their reserve unit and starters. Johnson led the charge with a driving bank shot by Johnson and a jumper by Bullock to pull within 107-104 with 37.7 seconds left. They had a couple of looks on the final possession to try to tie it but Griffin missed a couple looks at 3-pointers and the Bucks held on.
“When you play with that kind of passion and that type of energy for long periods of time, you put yourself in position to win and that group did,” Casey said. “We all remember that last part of the game, but our Achilles’ heel was in the second quarter: 16 points and they got away from us with about three minutes to go in the second quarter.”
1. Reggie Bullock got off to a good start and that energy resonated throughout the game. He scored the first eight points and set the tone for the first quarter with his shooting. He hit four 3-pointers, continuing his good play since returning from a sprained ankle. Casey called Bullock an integral piece of the starting unit and his outside shooting showed why.
2. Jon Leuer is starting to get a rhythm to his game with his increased minutes. Although Zaza Pachulia (illness) was available after missing Saturday’s game, he was available Monday but didn’t play against the Bucks because of defensive matchup issues. He was solid again, with eight points off the bench as the backup center.
3. Griffin struggled to get his offensive production going in the early part of the game but chipped away by doing the little things: finding teammates and getting rebounds. His defense wasn’t stellar, but Griffin was the hub of the offense, always, and didn’t force the action but let the game come to him. The 10 turnovers showed the trouble he had in handling the ball, as he didn’t have his normal scoring touch.
4. Johnson has struggled mightily on 3-pointers this season but down the stretch in the fourth, he was clutch, with three 3-pointers as part of his 11 points in the first seven minutes of the period. He added one to bring the Pistons within 100-99 at the 3:45 mark. He got into a good shooting rhythm and looked more confident on those shots than he has most of the year.
5. The Pistons’ defense on Antetokounmpo was lax for most of the game. He had several easy looks at the rim and his dunks and easy lay-ins were deflating after he got in the lane uncontested. Many teams have the same problems, but Antetokounmpo had an easier time Monday than normal against the Pistons.