Reinvigorated Griffin gives Pistons a jolt in 107-92 knockout of defending champ Lakers
Detroit — No matter the records, it’s a marquee game on the schedule when the Los Angeles Lakers come to town. It might have a little bit more sauce when the Lakers are the defending champions and the Pistons, struggling through their season, don’t have anything to lose.
Whatever it was, it was fun.
The Pistons played their best wire-to-wire game of the season and surprised the Lakers, surging to a 107-92 victory over the defending champs on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the second win in the last three games for the Pistons (5-14), who were on the second night of a back-to-back, like the Lakers.
Blake Griffin had his best game of the season with 14 of his 23 points in the second half. Wayne Ellington had 20 points, including six 3-pointers, and Mason Plumlee added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Griffin was seemingly energized after having Wednesday off on the first night of a back-to-back. He hit five 3-pointers and was an offensive hub for the Pistons, facilitating the offense from the post, from the perimeter and showing himself once again as a multi-faceted scoring option, as he was in his All-NBA season of 2018-19.
“That was Blake rested, of two years ago, healthy and with some bounce and pep in his step,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That's what we needed — we needed a jolt on a back-to-back tonight. I'm really happy with the way that he played.”
The Lakers (14-6) were playing without one of their All-Stars, Anthony Davis, but they were in it until the final minutes, with LeBron Davis scoring 20 of his 22 points in the first half. The Pistons pulled away with a decisive 16-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, starting with Griffin’s 3-pointer, with two drives by Jerami Grant and a 3-pointer by Ellington.
That pushed an 88-87 lead with 8:40 left to a 104-87 lead at the 2:00 mark. After the Lakers ended the run, Ellington added his sixth 3-pointer, to put the game away.
One of the biggest areas where the Pistons have struggled this season is finishing close games in the final minutes. Where they’ve come up short in the past, they were able to get it done against the defending champs.
“It’s important to close out games, no matter the opponent. If you look back at a lot of our games this season, we haven’t been able to close out,” Griffin said. “No matter if it’s the Lakers or whoever, closing out games is important. We’re getting game experience in these close games.”
The Pistons also had a 15-3 run in the third quarter, starting with a three-point play by Plumlee, with a drive, a pair of 3-pointers by Griffin.
James finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists and Kyle Kuzma 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost their second straight.
The game featured a couple of dust-ups between rookie Isaiah Stewart and the Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris, a former Piston. It was all verbal jawing but the rookie didn’t back down when he was challenged, seemingly because of his physical and energetic play, which has been a constant this season.
"Isaiah's not backing down from anybody, nor is Saddiq (Bey),” Plumlee said. “Our young guys are fearless and we appreciate that about them.”
Stewart and Harrell were assessed a technical foul and most of the talking was done after that. When Morris stepped in during one back-and-forth, Sekou Doumbouya was there to back up Stewart.