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Pistons Beat Clippers 109-104 Behind Blake Griffin’s Game-High 44 Points

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Ex-Clippers Blake Griffin and Reggie Bullock led the way for Detroit in a wire-to-wire win for Detroit. Revenge game? You bet it was.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Lineups

Los Angeles Clippers: Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Marcin Gortat, Tobias Harris

Detroit Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown Jr., Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Game Summary

The Clippers lost a heartbreaker to the Pistons Saturday, 109-104.

The Clippers never led in the contest, despite winning three out of four quarters. They fell behind by 13 after one frame and were unable to climb out of that hole. Mid-day games have never been great for Los Angeles, and they looked predictably sluggish. Solid performances from Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Ty Wallace were not enough to overcome a monster game from Blake Griffin, and strong showings from Andre Drummond and the Reggies (Bullock and Jackson).

Welcome Back Blake (?)

The biggest storyline leading into Saturday’s match up was Blake Griffin’s return to Staples to face the franchise that traded him six months following an over-the-top (and super cringeworthy) pitch that culminated in the signing of a five-year, $173 million contract. The significance of the moment was not lost on Blake:

The reunion was not entirely smooth. After Griffin’s pre-game warm-up Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer attempted to approach the All-Star, only to have his advances actively, and obviously, avoided. #awkward

Unsurprisingly, NBA Twitter had a range of reactions to the incident, and surely pundits will have a field day analyzing Blake’s actions in the upcoming days. On the one hand, seems very petty. On the other hand, you really can’t blame Griffin for avoiding an awkward and potentially distracting interaction right before his first ballgame on his former home court. Business is business, and sometimes it is cutthroat and rude. You can’t fault the Clippers for their blindside trade of Griffin, as it ultimately benefitted the team. But at the same time you can’t fault Griffin for not being chummy with the franchise that promised him the moon, only to rid themselves of him a few months later.

On a more positive note, when player introductions rolled around, Clipper fans gave Blake a warm reception, followed by a standing ovation during a time-out video tribute. The former fan favorite graciously acknowledged both gestures.

First Half

Early games have historically been difficult for the Clippers, and today was no different. Although the defense started off active, there was little going on offensively.

The Pistons came out shooting and were particularly effective from distance. Reggie Bullock and Reggie Jackson combined for 14 points and four 3-pointers in the period. Griffin was best for both teams, connecting for 15 points on 4-6 shooting, including two from beyond the line.

At the end of one the Pistons had built a 13-point lead, 37-24, on 57 percent shooting from the field.

The Clippers shot 47 percent from the field in the frame and were led by Danilo Gallinari who had nine points and one assist.

Los Angeles opened the second quarter on an 8-2 run, cutting the lead to seven. The infusion of energy was thanks in large part to Montrezl Harrell. Harrell’s never say die attitude was on full display both on offense …

and on defense ….

Despite the uptick in play, the Clippers continued to struggle with Detroit’s Griffin. Detroit’s lead hovered around 6 points for most of the quarter, with both squads exchanging basket for basket. The Pistons went on a mini-run at the end of the half that nearly doubled their lead, sending the Clippers to the locker room trailing by 11, 65-54.

Gallinari was best for Los Angeles after 24-minutes with 16 points on 5 for 7 shooting.

Harrell contributed an impressive 12 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds in just under 15 minutes, his best quarter of the season. Tobias Harris and Lou Williams were relatively quiet, scoring 3 and 8 points respectively.

Griffin was nothing short of spectacular for the Pistons, logging 26 points on 7 for 10 shooting, including three from distance, and going 9 for 10 at the charity stripe. Former Clipper Bullock added 11 points.

Notable Stats at the Half:

By halftime, the Clippers had improved their shot percentage to 52.8 percent, while the Pistons fell to 50 percent. The Pistons were winning the long-ball however, hitting 11 for 22. The Clippers only took 6 shots from beyond the arc, converting on 4.

Turnovers were an issue for both franchises. The Clippers turned over the ball 10 times in the half, and the Pistons eight times.

The Clippers were out-rebounded 22-18, but outscored the Pistons in the paint, 26 to 16.

Second Half

The Clippers trailed the entire third quarter. They never really locked in on defense, nor did they find their footing offensively.

With less than three minutes in the third, Griffin headed back to the locker room after a sideline discussion with one of the Pistons’ trainers. He had logged 35 points on 10-16 shooting and 11-12 from the line, 5 rebounds and 2 assists at the time of his exit. It was the perfect time for the Clippers to make a run, but Drummond held down the fort, dominating the Clippers in the paint on both ends of the floor. Los Angeles could not get a stop or gain ground. The third frame ended with the Clippers trailing by 10, 90-10, and with Griffin back on the sideline ready to return to the hardwood to finish the game.

The Clippers made a solid run at a comeback in the final frame, but it was not meant to be. They started off the quarter with new energy, and after an 8-0 run had cut Detroit’s lead to two. Tyrone Wallace was front and center in the revival, working very well with Williams and Harrell on the floor. Wallace finished with 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in 11 minutes of action for the Clippers. He also had a team-high plus/minus of +16.

The Clippers narrowed the lead to two, but a little bully ball in the paint from Griffin, along with a corner three, and the Piston’s lead ballooned back to seven.

Despite a valiant effort throughout the quarter, the Clippers could not get over the hump. Their defensive pressure was at times brilliant, but they missed many scoring opportunities down the stretch; at one point missing seven consecutive shots.

With just under five minutes to go in regulation the Clippers finally strung together a few stops and were able to tie the game at 97 on a Williams three. Bullock responded with a long ball of his own. Sweet Lou followed with a layup down the middle, but the Pistons again regained the lead after a defensive lapse led to an unattended Drummond at the rim. After a non-scoring Clipper possession, Bullock nailed another three and the Clippers opted to talk things over.

After the time-out, Griffin again bullied his way to the rim to extend the Piston lead to eight. Harrell made his way to the line after a hard foul on the Clippers’ next possession and converted one of two. Harrell followed with a block on Reggie Jackson leading to a nice floater by Harris. Five-point game.

With fouls to give Patrick Beverley tied up Drummond after an offensive rebound, preventing an easy score. Griffin subsequently missed a three attempt, and Detroit fouled Gallinari in transition on the opposite end. Danilo converted both free throws, cutting the Pistons’ lead to three with just over one minute left.

The Clippers held on defensively to stop a Pistons’ score, but not without giving up an offensive rebound and letting a lot of time run off the clock. Once they had regained possession of the ball there were 33 seconds left in regulation. Doc called a time-out, presumably to plan a two-for-one play to ensure final possession given the time left on the clock. The subsequent play was poorly executed and broken up by Griffin, who stepped out of bounds with the ball. The Clippers got the ball back with a full shot clock, but a missed foul call (Bruce Brown hitting Williams on the arm) resulted in a turnover. The Clippers immediately fouled Brown who sunk both foul shots. Twenty seconds to go, Clippers down by five. The Clippers would not score again, dropping the game 109-104.

Griffin and Beverley exchanged “pleasantries” after the buzzer sounded - a confrontation that was brewing all game - but were quickly separated by officials.

Hugs were in store for Williams and Harrell however.

The vibe of the entire game was pretty much summed up in those two post game interactions. As the old adage goes, there is a thin line between love and hate. The Clippers – Griffin relationship is both of those things at this point in time. A little bit sad, really.

Notable Final Game Stats

Clippers:

· Gallinari: 23 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists

· Williams: 22 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists

· Harrell: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks

· Harris: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals

· Wallace: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal

Pistons:

· Griffin: 44 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals

· Drummond: 20 points, 21 rebounds

· Bullock: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

· Reggie Jackson, 10 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists

Takeaways

Starting Back Court Production : Both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Avery Bradley had unremarkable games, combining for only 10 points. We need more from both players moving forward. Perhaps they should not be starting? At a minimum, they should not be starting together. Neither brings tremendous energy to the floor. Replacing Bradley with Beverley would improve the situation in the back court, without compromising defensive intensity.

Ty Wallace Time: Fans forget how good Wallace was last season, even starting a number of games for the Clippers. He was not great defensively then, but has markedly improved, and deserves every opportunity he has been given on the floor this season. Expect the Bakersfield native to see more minutes as the season progresses.

Struggles on Defense: The Clippers need to find a way to slow down mega stars like Griffin and Joel Embiid in this league. Double-teaming has worked, but has been an inexplicably underutilized strategy by the Clippers’ coaching staff. Hopefully that will change in the second half of the season.

Next Up

The Clippers next face the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, January 14, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.