Pistons hope Griffin can stick around vs. Heat
The Detroit Pistons proved Friday they could rally during crunch time without All-Star power forward Blake Griffin. They should have him back as they try to collect back-to-back road victories against Miami on Saturday.
Griffin was ejected after picking up his second technical late in the third period at Atlanta on Friday. The Pistons gave away an 11-point lead shortly after Griffin retreated to the locker room, then erased a five-point deficit in the final two minutes to edge the Hawks 125-122.
Detroit has won five of its last six games as it battles for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"They realized we didn't have Blake to go to down the stretch," coach Dwane Casey told the media following the game. "We found other ways to score."
The Pistons leaned on their other top players Friday, as center Andre Drummond piled up 26 points, 21 rebounds and five steals, and point guard Reggie Jackson had his highest-scoring game since 2017 with 32 points, eight assists and no turnovers.
"He and Andre put the team on their shoulders and carried us," Casey said.
Casey wasn't impressed by the team's defensive effort, however, as the Pistons gave up 20 3-pointers to the Hawks.
"It doesn't matter what the (other) team's record is," he said. "I don't care who it is, whether it's Miami, San Antonio, doesn't matter. We've got to come out with a better disposition defensively and take away something. There's no excuse for our defense to be as lax as it was."
The Heat lost at Philadelphia 106-102 on Thursday in their first game after the All-Star break. The Sixers outscored them 8-3 during crunch time.
"It still comes down to you want to win in this building against a very good team, you're going to have to buckle down and get two or three stops in a row and we weren't able to do that," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after the game.
Adding to Miami's frustration was that Philadelphia shot 23 more free throws.
"We're doing our job. Our job is to attack, put pressure on the defense and be aggressive," guard Dwyane Wade told the South Florida Sen Sentinel. "So we're doing our job. And there's nothing more we can do. It's just out of our hands from that standpoint."
Veteran point guard Goran Dragic remained inactive on Thursday, although he has been cleared to play after undergoing knee surgery in December.
In his absence, Justise Winslow has emerged as the team's main ballhandler. Dragic is questionable to play on Saturday.
"The most important thing is to win a game. So whatever Coach is going to ask for us, we're going to do that," Dragic told the media. "Justise is going to play on the ball, I can play off the ball. So we'll see. It depends on how we're going to play. We have a lot of guys who can play in the same positions, so at the end of the day that's a coach's decision."
Detroit and Miami split the first two meetings this season, both in Detroit. They'll play again in Miami on March 13.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 23, 2019