Coming into the season, a game against the Detroit Pistons looked like an easy win for most playoff teams. Through a quarter of the season, half of that has been true — teams beat the Pistons on most nights.
But Detroit isn’t a pushover, especially against the NBA’s best, and they proved it once again against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. Blake Griffin scored 23 points, going head-to-head with LeBron James, as the Pistons blew out the Anthony Davis-less Lakers in a 107-92 win.
If you had told me the Pistons would beat the Lakers after their win over the Philadelphia 76ers this week, I would have entertained the idea. But after last night’s snooze fest in Cleveland against the Cavaliers, there was no way.
Until there was.
We’ve all taken turns bemoaning his lackluster-at-best play this season, but he looked well-rested against Los Angeles. It feels like that hasn’t happened often.
He was hitting perimeter jumpers, driving and dishing, finding crafty ways to score. He’s still limited on the drive physically and can’t really finish like he used to, but his drive and dish game is still very strong, shown by his six assists.
It could have been better if Jerami Grant hadn’t struggled. The Pistons’ breakout star hit just 3 of his first 11 shots, finishing with 14 points. Mason Plumlee was good, again. After battling foul trouble in the first half, he played well int he second with 14 points and 10 rebounds, including a nice finish as former Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hammered him dangerously close to his face (it was a flagrant-one) in the third quarter.
Wayne Ellington, who becomes tradeable on February 6, 2021 if you were wondering, was once again NBA Jam-levels of on fire. He hit six more triples, scoring 20 points while even seeing the occasional double-team (!!!) from the Lakers.
I don’t care if he’s old and taking playing time away from Saddiq Bey and Svi Mykhailiuk right now... Ellington might be the best 3-point specialist in the NBA at this very moment.
Another hot trade candidate, Derrick Rose, was productive off the bench with 14 points.
Hopefully Troy Weaver finds a way to spin both off in the coming months. More picks, plz.
Speaking of draft picks, Isaiah Stewart had himself a fun night pestering opposing forwards. Both Markieff Morris and Montrez Harrell, two dudes I would not want to piss off, did more chirping with Stewart than impacting the game tonight.
Neither did much as Stewart played most of the half with Plumlee battling foul trouble. The rookie finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds, even attempting a three that seemingly took Greg Kelser’s breath away.
Stewart is kind of becoming a baby Rick Mahorn. I wonder if Rick agrees?
In the midst of his best stretch of the season, Sekou Doumbouya was active but struggled overall with 2 points and a rebound.
The Lakers may have been without Davis, but they still have a lot of firepower. LeBron led L.A. with 22 points, effortlessly slicing through the Pistons like a warm knife through butter... initially, at least.
He hit his first seven shots, but missed 10 of his final 11. Credit, mostly, to Grant, but it was a team effort to slow him down. Pistons played a good game defensively after last night’s stinker in Cleveland.
Pistons Killer Kyle Kuzma dropped 22 points and 10 boards in the loss. Did you know he’s from Flint? Did you know Matthew Stafford is friends with Clayton Kershaw. Ok, sorry, sorry.
Through it all, they played a close game. DBB Editor Sean Corp put it best:
Pistons doing what they do best - hanging around— Detroit Bad Boys ☠ (@detroitbadboys) January 29, 2021
If you’re riding the #FadeForCade train, this wasn’t the best night. I’ve mentioned it throughout this season: Detroit is going to lose a lot of games. Beating the defending champions is a nice way to notch one of those wins.
I mean, better than some meaningless win over Saramento next month, right?