The Detroit Pistons stepped on the floor in Houston having not slept in their own beds in a week, coming off intense travel to Mexico City and were without Andre Drummond due to eye inflammation and loss an obviously injured and ineffective Blake Griffin after the first half. They left Houston with their biggest win of the season 115-107.
There were plenty of stars for the Pistons on Saturday night — Bruce Brown putting the clamps on James Harden, a first-half barrage from Luke Kennard, fourth-quarter heroics from Derrick Rose. First, though, we have to talk about Blake Griffin.
Something just isn’t right. He was shooting a flat ball and front-rimming all of his shots. He couldn’t get past his man, finish, rebound or do much of anything.
After scoring two points on 0-for-7 shooting in the first half, this is the last we saw of Blake as he “walked” to the locker room.
How about is we rest Blake please? Give him the season off. Rehab him properly.— Riimgrazer (@riinawith2eyes) December 15, 2019
I have the utmost respect for his drive and passion but he's walking with a limp... how's he gonna match up with NBA players? #DetroitBasketball pic.twitter.com/mQIw6ONZb3
It was announced he would not return, and I’m starting to wonder if this is going to be an extended absence.
At the time the Pistons had a 62-52 halftime lead, but with no Blake and no Andre (out with eye inflammation), you’d be excused for thinking this would be a classic second-half collapse.
The Pistons all stepped up, however, and nobody stepped up bigger than the man with the toughest challenge of the night — Bruce Brown who had to stop the James Harden freight train.
It feels weird to say someone played lockdown defense when the opposing player scores 39 points but that’s just how nuclear Harden is right now. Brown played him tight, didn’t fall for many of his tricks and he, along with a lot of help defenders, forced Harden to use 33 shots to get those 39 points.
Brown can step up for big games and he stepped up on both ends tonight. Not only did he play quality defense but he added 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. He was also a team-high +10.
Detroit’s ragtag group of big men also played big against the Rockets, though I had my doubts early. Thon Maker started at center in place of Drummond and Clint Capela had like four thunderous dunks in Houston’s first five possessions.
The Pistons adjusted, however, and Thon had a couple clutch blocks and big rebounds late in the game. Markieff Morris had his long-ball working in the first half, hitting three 3s and finishing the night with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Houston came into the game tonight fifth in rebounding while Detroit sat 26th. Down the best rebounder on the planet and you’d expect a bloodbath on the boards in favor of Houston. Detroit came to play, though, and with Houston on a back-to-back they just didn’t have as much spring in their legs. Detroit outrebounded Houston 55-46 with six players having at least five boards.
Christian Wood led the team with 12 caroms and secured his double-double by netting 11 points — one of seven Pistons players scoring in double figures. Luke Kennard had 22 thanks to four first-quarter 3s.
Finally, there was Derrick Rose who saw blood in the water and decided to put the game away in the fourth quarter. Houston was cutting into Detroit’s lead and the crowd was getting back into the game after a pair of Harden free-throws cut the deficit to seven with just over five minutes to play.
Rose then connected on three consecutive jumpers and pushed the lead back to 13 with 3:37 to play. Houston cut back into the lead and Rose hit another jumper and then shoveled a nifty pass to Kennard under the basket for an easy layup and a 12-point lead with 1:23 to go.
While the Pistons subsequently tried to blow the game in that final 83 seconds, there just wasn’t enough time left and Detroit came away with the victory.
Solid defense, great shooting, amazing rebounding — all were on display for the short-handed Pistons on Saturday. That’s what they need to do to win games. Drummond should be back in the lineup but Blake could sit for a while so the team can figure out how to get his legs healthy again. Reggie could be coming back soon, too.
The Pistons sit at 11-15 and play five of their next six at home. If they want to get into the playoff chase in the Eastern Conference now is the time they need to make their move. If they keep playing like they did Saturday, they just might do it.