The Detroit Pistons traded blows back and forth with the Boston Celtics but eventually fell 122-120 after Jayson Tatum hit an elbow jumper with 2.9 seconds remaining. The most notable decision of the game was the one that saw Blake Griffin on the floor for a defensive possession looking to force overtime. It was a decision the Celtics obviously noted as they made sure to get Griffin switched onto Tatum who easily shook Griffin for the open look.
Griffin, who slipped to the floor got up, received the ball from Jerami Grant and a shot at redemption and the win but couldn’t get a clean look and flailed the ball toward the hoop as time expired.
The question is why? Why was Griffin in on that final possession? The answer is pretty easy, but it’s not one Pistons fans want to hear. Blake is the most decorated veteran — one of the few — remaining on the Pistons roster. A roster full of rookies and young players Griffin is being asked to work with in practice, mentor, and deal with their obvious mistakes and resulting losses.
And the losses will pile up no matter how expertly Dwane Casey tweaks the rotation or game plans. Detroit is a bad team trying to develop. Part of that development is creating a positive environment, and part of that positive environment is rewarding your vets with trust, minutes and touches.
Blake is going to continue playing a large role, and hopefully he’ll start to look like a semblance of his former self. Right now, though, he’s looks like a rec league legend who runs from 3-point line to 3-point line and believes that defense is for the try-hards.
Derrick Rose, too, will continue to close games and have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Results, presumably, will not be pretty more often than not. Whether that’s the right call or the wrong call, it’s the reality. And the best Griffin, Rose, Casey and the Pistons can hope for is both are effective enough to play themselves into better situations for all involved.
More games like Sundays will do nobody any favors.
Griffin finished the game with 13 points on 14 shots, three rebounds and four assists. Rose had 13 points on 14 shots, eight assists and four turnovers. He also had a half dozen plays that had you shaking your head but somehow avoided leaving a permanent record in the box score.
Now onto the good news!
The Pistons young kids can play — they play hard and they mostly play smart. They still have a lot to learn, of course, but you can see why Weaver was so intrigued by the likes of Jerami Grant and Josh Jackson and rookies Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes. Even incumbents Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya are showing they belong more and more.
The play of the kids kept Detroit in the game all night, and to see them fighting to stay in it despite some excellent performance from Boston’s stars made for an enjoyable 48 minutes of basketball.
The Pistons gave up 122 points on the night, but I’d say their defense was solid the entire game. Boston just has excellent players who made it look effortless. Jayson Tatum is approaching all-around superstar status with 24 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and really opening up the floor and finding Boston’s role players. Jaylen Brown did much the same with 31 points and making it look so, so easy. It’s like neither player had to break a sweat all game.
Particular highlights for the Pistons included Grant (22 points) with his fifth straight 20+-point game for the Pistons and more great drives to the basket where Grant twists and contorts his way to a solid look at the rim when it looks like nothing will be available.
Killian Hayes looked composed and finally got a few to go through the net. He scored just five points and added four assists but he played solid defense all night and it was a step forward for the struggling point guard.
Josh Jackson looked solid again scoring 13 points but he hurt his ankle on a drive to the basket. He was able to limp off the floor but it didn’t look good. Svi Mykhailiuk replaced Jackson in the rotation and blew up for 15 points in less than 15 minutes, drove to the basket hard and played really good, committed defense.
Sekou Doumbouya had eight points and hit two gorgeous 3-pointers but is still struggling to find regular minutes in Casey’s rotation. Saddiq Bey, meanwhile, continues to win his coach’s trust more and more with his savvy play on both ends of the floor and willingness to take and make the open 3-pointer when it is presented to him.