Pistons head to Chicago firing on all cylinders
Less of Blake Griffin has made the Detroit Pistons more dangerous.
The Pistons relied heavily on their All-Star power forward during the first half of the season. Griffin is getting more than a little help from his friends over the past month, and the results have been impressive.
Detroit has won 10 of its last 12 games to move past the .500 mark (32-31) for the first time since Dec. 19. The red-hot Pistons will face Central Division foe Chicago twice in three days, beginning with a Friday night matchup at the Bulls' United Center.
Griffin scored in single digits for the first time since Nov. 9 on Wednesday as the Timberwolves held him to nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. But that didn't stop the Pistons' offense, as they piled up 109 points in the final three quarters of a 131-114 win over Minnesota.
Frontcourt partner Andre Drummond powered for 31 points, and the bench produced a season-high 70 points, led by Luke Kennard's 21.
"You never know who it's going to be, (but) it's going to be somebody," Griffin said. "Dre (Drummond) is pretty dependable, so many guys step up. Reggie's (Jackson) played unbelievable basketball, Luke's played unbelievable, and that's tough for teams to game-plan against, when it's a pretty balanced attack like it was."
Griffin has scored 20 or fewer points in six of the last seven games, yet the Pistons are 6-1 during that stretch. The more diverse attack has led to a better vibe around the team and the franchise. The Pistons are angling for just their second postseason berth since 2009.
"We didn't have fun the first half (of the season)," coach Dwane Casey said. "I am not going to lie about that. If they were having fun when we were in the first half, then we're in trouble. But, the second half, we had fun and that's the way that it should be. Having fun, pulling for each other, happy for everybody's success, jumping up and down, but it's fun when they're competing like that."
Kennard and reserve point guard Ish Smith, who had 19 points and five assists against the Timberwolves, have made the second unit fearsome.
"We know the main focus is the playoffs, so nobody is out there being selfish," backup big man Thon Maker said. "Everybody is just moving the ball, trying to score and trying to get better."
The Bulls (19-47) are feeling better about themselves as well. They defeated the playoff-bound Philadelphia 76ers 108-107 on Wednesday, as shooting guard Zach LaVine erupted for 39 points, including the game-winning basket with less than two seconds remaining.
"We can beat any of these teams," LaVine told the team's website. "We've always played with them. We just have to show we can win. We're in a good little rhythm now."
Chicago has won just 19 games, but six of them have come during its last nine outings. Small forward Otto Porter Jr. is averaging 18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 10 games since he was acquired from Washington.
"When you are rebuilding, you have to take your bumps and understand you have to build your way up," LaVine said. "We're a young, exciting team. We have elite firepower. We have some of the best players in the NBA on this team, I feel like. And we're going to change it around really fast."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 7, 2019