Detroit had just acquired Blake Griffin in a big trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, but Griffin wouldn’t make his debut until the Pistons’ next game on Feb. 1.
Love is still out for Cleveland, and now, so is center Tristan Thompson, who suffered a sprained right ankle in Saturday’s 126-117 loss to Denver and will miss “multiple” games, according to the Cavs.
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It means Cleveland will be without its starting frontcourt from the last two Finals for Monday’s matchup against Griffin (a five-time All-Star) and center Andre Drummond, an All-Star this season.
The Cavs are likely to start Larry Nance Jr at center. Nance, acquired in a trade from the Lakers on Feb. 8, is averaging 10.0 points and 6.6 boards since joining Cleveland. But he said he hyperextended a knee Saturday. The injury apparently will not keep him out of Monday’s game.
“I don’t expect us to be 8-0 right now,” Hill said. “I feel like early we was on that high horse, new to the city and new to the team, so you’re kind of on cloud nine to get away from your old stomping grounds, things like that.
“But once teams start scouting and figuring things out, we’ve just got to figure it out ourselves. Where we’re going as a team and what’s going to be our identity? It’s all new schemes for us defensively for four guys coming into a rotation to play with a playoff team like this is totally different. It’s going to take time. There’s no need for us to tip our head down. We’ve got to keep our head high and figure it out.”
The Pistons are 6-8 since landing Griffin and have lost five of their last six. They beat the Cavs 125-114 on Jan. 30 — the night Love broke that bone early in the first quarter — behind 21 points and 22 rebounds from Drummond.
Drummond went for 22 points and 18 boards in a 105-96 loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday. Griffin scored 31 in the game, but the Pistons committed 19 turnovers and struggled to shoot 3-pointers (7 of 24).
“That’s just not going to get it done,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We just didn’t get much help on the perimeter today. Everyone’s playing hard, so I’m not here to try and blast anybody. We just didn’t make enough shots and we turned the ball over too much.”
According to the Free Press, the Pistons ranked fourth in 3-point percentage (37 percent) before trading perimeter players Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley for Griffin. They are 20th since (34.5 percent).