Pistons pull out victory over depleted Mavericks
Detroit -- The Dallas Mavericks took the NBA by storm on Thursday afternoon, pulling off a blockbuster trade involving seven players, three on their current roster, that will shape the future of two franchises for the next decade. Easily forgotten, Dallas still had to play a basketball game Thursday night against the Pistons.
With owner Tom Gores watching courtside, the Pistons got hot in the fourth quarter to pull out a 93-89 win over a skeleton roster for the Mavericks.
Pistons forward Blake Griffin, who was announced as an All-Star during the game, found success on the inside and outside to the tune of 24 points, but center Andre Drummond was the story for Detroit, scoring 24 of his own with 20 rebounds.
The Pistons outscored the Mavericks 30-19 in the fourth quarter.
"We only had four turnovers in the second half," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "Our defense in the fourth quarter was huge."
The Mavericks were without DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr., all traded to the New York Knicks earlier in the day. Guard Luka Doncic, Dallas' 19-year-old rookie, missed the game nursing a sore ankle.
In their place, the Mavericks leaned on the shooting of guard Harrison Barnes (27 points), the slashing of guards Devin Harris (15 points), Jalen Brunson (nine points), and the down-low disruption of center Dwight Powell (10 points).
The Pistons shot a paltry 38 percent from the field and only 27 percent on 3-pointers.
Despite the win, Casey was not impressed with his team's effort considering Dallas was without so many key pieces.
"The approach was disappointing," Casey said. "In this league, you have to play with force and grit. We couldn't buy a shot, and a couple times when we had open shots, we turned them down. We looked down there and saw these guys that don't play and it's (the lack of effort) human nature."
"We just cared a little bit more," Griffin said about the Pistons' fourth quarter surge. "We'll take the win and move on, but it feels like a loss right now. Everyone in this locker room cares, but a bad shooting night and a little bit of lackadaisical effort early on are killers in this league."
The Pistons made their first five shots to jump to an 11-4 lead, prompting a Mavericks timeout, but by the end of the first quarter, Dallas had shaved the lead to two.
A shooting lull for Detroit allowed the Mavericks to race to a 14-point lead in the second quarter, but by halftime the Pistons had pulled to within four.
With 7:38 left, Griffin hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to cut Dallas's lead to one. Three minutes later, Griffin sunk a hook shot to give Detroit its first lead since the second quarter. The lead was short-lived as a Barnes 3-pointer put the Mavericks back up by four with 3:38 left.
Back-to-back Drummond lay-ins knotted the score at 83 and the Mavericks took a timeout with 2:32 left. On the other end, Griffin fouled Powell hard and Powell only converted one from the charity stripe, giving Dallas a one-point lead, immediately answered by a Drummond putback. On Detroit's next possession, Reggie Jackson was as assertive as he'd been all game and scored on a swooping, reverse layup, putting the Pistons up by three and causing a Mavericks timeout with 1:34 left.
Out of the timeout, Barnes hit two free throws, but Griffin answered down low. On Dallas's next possession, Barnes made a layup and the Pistons were forced to take a timeout, up 89-88, with 25.5 seconds left.
Jackson made two free throws and Griffin fouled Brunson, who made one free throw and intentionally missed the next. Drummond grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 3.3 seconds left. He made both free throws, and the game ended 93-89 for Detroit.
Because of the trade and injury, Dallas only had 10 players available.
"We've all been through these challenging situations in coaching," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "There are periods of upheaval when you go through injuries. One thing you learn in the NBA is that this is the greatest league in the world for on-the-fly preparation."
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, a 21-year veteran, got a big ovation from the Little Caesars Arena crowd when he checked in. Nowitzki, 40, got the loudest cheers of the first half on two made jumpers. The future hall-of-famer finished the night with seven points.
"I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I bet there will be a statue. He's had a staggering, positive impact on the international player's ability to come into the NBA," Carlisle said. "Dirk's been a huge factor in redefining the power forward position. It's heartwarming. He's such a great representative of the game that people have a great appreciation for him."
Pistons guard Ish Smith was out with right adductor tightness, making it six-straight games the speedster has missed.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.