Griffin, Pistons host Cavs
The Detroit Pistons‘ formula for success in the early going has been simple: Put the ball in Blake Griffin’s hands as often as possible.
Griffin is off to a torrid start, which is why the Pistons head into their home game against Cleveland on Thursday with a 3-0 record.
Griffin poured in a career-high 50 points in a 133-132 overtime triumph over Philadelphia on Tuesday. He made the game-winning three-point play, driving into the lane for a layup while getting fouled and then draining the free throw with 1.8 seconds left.
He became the first Pistons player since Richard Hamilton to 2006 to reach the 50-point mark.
Griffin has been a force, whether he’s driving to the basket, backing down defenders in the post or firing from long range. He’s averaging 34.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
“Probably the best game of his career,” Detroit backup center Zaza Pachulia said. “From inside, outside, I think he feels great, his body feels great, he’s in great shape. He’s smart, playing against him is different. … I’m amazed and glad that we are teammates.”
Griffin’s usage rate is a career-best 32.4 percent compared to his 27.8 career usage rate. The Pistons are averaging 118 points.
That’s the kind of impact Detroit was hoping for when it traded for Griffin and his long-term contract in a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Clippers last January.
“Out of all the great players that I worked with, Dirk (Nowitzki), Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Kemp, all those guys, he’s playing at that high of a level right now,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s just one of those guys that is taking it to another level, leading his team, putting them on his back, being a leader in timeouts. But again that is what we expect from Blake because he is that good of a player.”
First-round pick Collin Sexton scored 14 points off the bench. Coach Tyronn Lue said prior to the game that developing players such as the rookie point guard is paramount this season.
“We have a lot of young pieces that we want to grow and to mature and to get better. There’s going to be a lot of different lineups throughout the course of the season,” Lue told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“That’s just how it’s going to be. We’re still fighting to win and we want to win. Our older guys understand they have to pave the way for these younger guys to get better. And we have to let the older guys play to show the younger guys how you’re supposed to do it and how you’re supposed to come along.”
Cleveland will be without power forward Kevin Love, who will sit out the contest due to left foot soreness, the team announced Thursday afternoon. Love was held to 14 points in 29 minutes versus Brooklyn.
Others veterans will be looking to bounce back after subpar outings against the Nets. Point guard George Hill had seven points and no assists in 25 minutes while center Tristan Thompson shot 1-for-10 from the field.