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Pistons offense goes cold as Detroit falls to Clippers

Pistons sprinted ahead behind pressure defense, but eventually crumbled as shots wouldn’t fall

Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons fell 96-91 to the LA Clippers after their offense went dormant in the second half. The defeat means the Pistons have now lost five games in a row and six straight to the LA Clippers. There are some built-in excuses for their latest losses, as they’ve been without Cade Cunningham for a calendar week, and their defensive anchor in Isaiah Stewart officially started up his 2-3 week stint on the injury report. But at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. Detroit has fallen to 3-13, having gone winless on the road (0-8), and has five games remaining on their west coast road trip.

Now there may be a silver lining in last night’s result. Detroit held the Clippers to just 96 points and won the turnover battle, but when the going got tough, the shots stopped falling and in the end, the more seasoned team squeezed out a win.

Here’s how it all went down.

Detroit elected to scrap the two-big starting line-up, instead moving Saddiq Bey back to his regular role. They opted for offense over defense, as Marvin Bagley III got the nod over rookie Jalen Duren at the center spot. This proved to be futile as Bagley finished the game with only four points in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, the Clippers welcomed back Kawhi Leonard, who had already missed thirteen games this season. In the two games he played in, he came off the bench, but he returned to the starting line-up.

Detroit looked extremely engaged on the defensive side of the floor to start the game, which, for a team ranked dead last in defensive rating, was a sight for sore eyes. They only allowed 15 points in the first frame. The Pistons were flying around the paint, getting their hands in passing lanes, and they contested every shot, which led to easy looks in transition. None of which were more pretty than this…

When Bagley checked out at the six-minute mark of the first quarter after committing his second foul, Jalen Duren checked in, and Detroit’s collective energy increased from there. The rookie center totaled six points, four boards and a block in the first quarter.

To start the second quarter, the Pistons continued to get easy baskets; they converted steals into points, but eventually, their offense began to stall. They missed their first ten three-point attempts, and LA eventually went on a 10-0 scoring run, fueled by six straight from Paul George, to tie the game at 30-30.

Detroit didn’t hit their first three until there were 4 minutes left in the second quarter but started to find their range as they netted four of their final seven attempts from deep. This mini-surge would prove to be short-lived. Bogdanovic, who was coming off his worst game of the season, lit up the stat sheet - he finished the first half with 17 points on 6/10 shooting from the field and would go on to lead all scorers with 26 points. On the other side, old friend Reggie Jackson led the way for the Clippers with 16 points. Detroit took an eight-point lead to the locker room after allowing just 42 points in the first half.

Then… well, then the second half happened. Detroit only managed to score 17 points in the third quarter. The good news is their defense continued to play well throughout the second half, but everything that was working so well on the offensive side of the floor in the first half dried out. There weren’t many easy points in transition, and once they had to operate in the half court, while they were able to produce quality looks from three, they weren’t able to capitalize. Detroit finished the game shooting an ultimately disastrous 6-31 from three.

The Clippers and Pistons would volley the lead back and forth through the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, but LA eventually took control.

The bulk of LA’s activity came from George, Jackson and Ivica Zubac. Zubac finished with a game-high 18 rebounds, including 5 offensive boards - most of which led to put back dunks. George didn’t have a stellar shooting night (5-18), but when the Clippers needed a bucket late, when the game was still in the balance - he produced. Jackson led the Clippers in scoring, as he shot an efficient 7-12 from the field, good for 23 points.

Detroit will look to snap their five-game losing streak tonight against the struggling LA Lakers, who have lost five of their last six games.