The Pistons own the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Opponents are learning Detroit hasn’t stopped showing up every night.
The Los Angeles Clippers found that out Sunday when Detroit, playing for the third time in four nights, led the game entering the fourth quarter. The Clippers outscored the Pistons by 12 points in the final 12 minutes to claim a 131-124 home victory.
Those teams match up again on Wednesday, this time on Detroit’s home floor, Little Caesars Arena.
Detroit shot 52.9 percent on Sunday despite the absence of top scorer Jerami Grant, who missed his third consecutive game with knee soreness. He’s expected to play in the rematch.
“I think every guy on this team is a winner at heart,” said swingman Josh Jackson, who led his team on Sunday with 26 points. “You see our record, but teams coming in, they know no matter who’s out, when you play the Pistons you’re going to have to come to play.”
All but one player from last season’s team has been vanquished from the roster. The Pistons are 16-38 heading into the final few weeks of the season but coach Dwane Casey likes how the franchise’s roster overhaul has improved its long-range outlook.
“Expectations are totally different,” he said. “The emphasis on the young players at the beginning of the year, this year, was huge. … It’s not fun. It’s not pretty. It’s not something you want to put your fans through each and every year but it’s necessary. You have to have patience and you’ve got to see the big picture, see the trophy at the end of the tunnel.”
In the immediate future, the Pistons must figure out a way to defend the Clippers. Even with superstar Kawhi Leonard sitting out, the Clippers shot 62.5 percent from the field and made 15 of 26 3-point attempts.
Not surprisingly, Los Angeles’ other big star, Paul George, was a major part of the victory. He posted 32 points and nine assists but ex-Piston Marcus Morris Sr., was just as dangerous with 33 points.
Leonard also sat out Tuesday’s 126-115 victory at Indiana due to right foot soreness. The Clippers extended their winning streak to six games.
“He’s going to be a day-to-day situation,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “He is on the trip, so that’s a good sign.”
Clippers big man Serge Ibaka didn’t make the trip and remains idle with a back injury.
Grant, if he plays, and rookie Saddiq Bey will draw the primary assignments against the Clippers’ high-scoring forwards.
Lue will also look for a better defensive showing in the rematch.
“They got everything they wanted. I thought we were a little slow to the ball, the 50-50 balls, but you’ve got to give them credit,” he said. “They ran some good stuff. They made some tough shots. It wasn’t like we were just giving them shots. They earned, pretty much, a lot of the shots they made.”
George and Morris once again had big offensive nights against the Pacers. George piled up 36 points and eight assists, his fourth consecutive 30-plus point outing. Morris scored 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
–Field Level Media