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Pistons Top Cavs to End Eight Game Slide
The Blake Griffin Effect
Was it the trade? I would say, ”Absolutely!”. So, Blake Griffin wasn’t even in Detroit while the Pistons were busy lighting up the scoreboard against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. In fact, Griffin didn’t even get to watch the game, as he was on his the flight across the country to his new home. The trade itself, however, seemed to already give the Pistons energy and a sense of a new beginning, as they ended an eight game losing streak with a very impressive win over Cleveland. Let’s take a look at what happened.
Stanley Johnson Plays “Best” Game of His Career
Detroit offense was clicking on all cilynders in a 125-114 victory over Cleveland. All five starters scored 19 points or more in the victory, with Stanley Johnson leading the way with 26 points. Wait, what? Stanley Johnson scored 26 points? Yes, you heard it right. Where did that come from?
Well, it’s not that complicated, actually. His 26 points came as a direct correlation to the trade that happened just the night before. The departure of starters and lead scorers Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris opened up the floor for anyone not named Andre Drummond to step up and show they could contribute offensively. Stanley Johnson did just that.
Head coach Stan Van Gundy called the game the best that he had ever seen Johnson play. Johnson played perhaps the most complete game of his career, as he added ten assists to his career high 26 points, and he also man guarded LeBron James for the majority of the game. James scored 21 points on just nine for 20 shooting. That is five points less than his season average, giving credit to Johnson’s stout defense.
Andre Drummond Receives All-Star Invite
Andre Drummond found out only shortly before the game that he would be replacing John Wall in the All-Star game. In the middle of a pre-game interview, in which he was asked about his excitement for the All-Star game invite, James interrupted to let everyone know how excited he was to have Drummond joining Team LeBron.
Drummond took his excitement full swing into the game, as he posted 21 points and grabbed 22 rebounds, while also dishing out seven assists with three steals and three blocks. It’s safe to say he was near unstoppable. Van Gundy praised Drummond’s play after the game as he stated that he was everywhere in the third quarter, playing the best defense Van Gundy has ever seen from Drummond.
Drummond looked every part of an All-Star, as the Cavaliers had no answers, on offense or defense, for the big man. James will be happy to have him on his team, instead of playing against him, in the All-Star game.
Other Players Stepping Up
Johnson and Drummond were the most talked about names after the game, but it was a complete effort from the Pistons that lead to the unlikely short handed victory over Cleveland. Anthony Tolliver filled in at the vacant starting power forward position and scored 20 points to go with four rebounds and four assists. He will most likely relinquish his starting role to Griffin, as soon as Griffin is cleared to play. However, he didn’t disappoint in his fill in position.
Ish Smith finally gave the Pistons a game that Van Gundy believes he is capable of, as a fill in starter for injured point guard Reggie Jackson. Smith scored 19 points to go with seven assists.
Lastly, Reggie Bullock was given the nod as the starting shooting guard in place of Bradley. He reminded everyone of his smooth shooting stroke, as he scored 22 points, while connecting on four of six three point attempts. Pistons fans are calling for rookie Luke Kennard to be the starting shooting guard, but Bullock might have something to say about that. If he continues to play the way he did aginast Cleveland, his starting job isn’t going anywhere.
Detroit wasn’t supposed to beat Cleveland. The Pistons were on an eight game losing streak and without their two leading scorers, who had just been traded away. Well, they did win, and they looked good doing it. It’s only one game, but it looks like Harris and Bradley were holding back the potential of this Pistons team. Without the two hogging the majority of the shots on offense, everyone else was able to show what they were capable of.
Griffin will make his Pistons debut against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 1st. All eyes will be on Detroit to see how Griffin fits with his new teammates. Will there be growing pains? Most likely. Will there be more excitement and hope in Detroit? Without a doubt.
It will be interesting to see what Griffin adds to a team coming off one of the more impressive wins of the season. What kind of energy and chemistry will there be on the court in his first action of the season? Will Johnson continue to play like he did against the Cavaliers, when he set a career high in points? How will Drummond and Griffin look together? What changes will Van Gundy make to his lineup with the additions of Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed? Don’t forget about Smith and Bullock, who are both coming off of impressive performances. Will their performance increase even further with the addition of another star around them? There are plenty of things to watch for in the debut of Blake Griffin. This is much watch television.
© 2018 Micah Reum