'Gut check': Pistons end skid with win over Grizzlies

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
The Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin goes up for a basket while guarded by the Memphis Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson Jr.

Memphis, Tenn. — It wasn’t the road trip they wanted, but the Pistons salvaged something out of the four-game trek. After blowout losses at Indiana and Milwaukee and a buzzer-beating loss at Orlando, the Pistons finished their trip on a positive.

With better efforts on both ends of the floor — and allowing only 12 points in the third quarter — the Pistons ended their losing streak at three with a 101-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at FedEx Forum.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 101, Grizzlies 94

The Pistons had lost five of their previous six and they are now off until Saturday, when they face the Utah Jazz at Little Caesars Arena.

“It was a gut check. We said we’re going to have to dig ourselves out shovelful by shovelful and tonight was the first shovelful of dirt,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We haven’t gotten there and we’re not where we’re going to be, but it was a gut check. Now we have to continue to play unselfish basketball, together basketball.”

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Blake Griffin had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Reggie Jackson 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock 13 points each for the Pistons (17-19).

The Grizzlies (18-19) trailed, 55-51, at halftime but rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. (26 points and 10 rebounds) had nine straight Memphis points, pulling within 72-67 entering the fourth quarter. They managed just 12 points in the period, shooting 3-of-17 from the field. The Pistons pushed ahead, starting with a 7-0 run, with a 3-pointer by Bullock; Reggie Jackson followed with a 3-pointer and a floater before Jaren Jackson’s spurt.

“We held them to 12 points in the third quarter and that was huge,” Casey said. “Coming out of the locker room, I said defensive stops, not our offense, is going to win this game.”

Memphis got within one on two free throws and a tip-in by Dillon Brooks (14 points) at the 5:55 mark. The Pistons surged ahead behind Kennard, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers — the second with the shot clock expiring — to kick-start a 13-0 run to make it a 96-82 with 2:44 remaining. Griffin hit a jumper, split a pair of free throws and finished on a drive to end the spurt.

“We got stops and were able to push the ball. We just got good shots and moved the ball as a team,” Kennard said. “We found guys who were open, made shots and we got stops on the defensive end, which allowed us to get that lead.”

The Grizzlies still had a run, as Kyle Anderson (15 points) scored five straight points to pull within nine. Kennard made three of six free throws in the final 1:02 to keep the door open for Memphis — which got a 3-pointer Jaren Jackson (Michigan State) to get within eight.

After Kennard missed his last two free throws with 41.3 seconds left, the Grizzlies were within five on a basket by Shelvin Mack. Bullock put it away with two free throws with 23 seconds left for the final margin. 


►1. The Pistons shot 43 percent (9-of-21) on 3-pointers in the first half, which kept them within a four-point margin. They finished at 40 percent for the game, showing how potent the offense can be when shots are falling. In the past few games, the spacing and some skip-passes have given shooters an extra second to get open looks.

►2. Stanley Johnson (leg contusion) was a game-time decision and returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game against the Bucks. Zaza Pachulia (leg contusion) was out for a second straight game, which limited the Pistons’ depth, but they managed against the Grizzlies big front line with Drummond and Griffin playing extended minutes and Leuer chipping in. Johnson played six minutes in the first half but didn’t re-enter the game.

►3. Jaren Jackson Jr.  looked good in his first matchup against the Pistons. The former Spartan had 20 points and nine rebounds through the third quarter and went head-to-head with Griffin and Drummond. He was a force inside and looks like a nice building block for the Grizzlies, also earning Casey’s praise: “Very impressed. That young man is going to be something else.”

►4. In the back-to-back games, Griffin has had a lot of energy and attacked the rim. He had looked worn down in the first two games of the road trip but bounced back nicely against Memphis. He’s had just one game off this season and given the couple games before the western trip, there might be another he can get a rest.

►5. Reggie Jackson backed up his good offensive outing on Tuesday with another against the Grizzlies. He had a couple of good drives to the rim and hit four 3-pointers. He said Tuesday that he had been struggling to find a niche in the offense, but in the past couple games, he seems to have found a better footing. 


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard