The LA Clippers got off to a 14-2 start this season, and they were coming off another blowout win in Dallas Wednesday night. The starters got the 4th quarter off in the 124-104 win over the Mavericks, and the entire team stayed in North Texas to see the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) November 24, 2016
Yeah, it was at this moment that the “trap game” was in. Detroit hosted an NFL game on Thanksgiving too, and maybe the Clippers would have been better prepared to start Friday night’s game at The Palace of Auburn Hills if they would have gotten out of Dallas earlier?
Now before you all think I have a lawn that you need to get off of, let me get to the game. The Pistons were smacked in LA just 11 days ago, and they were even thinner for their rematch with the Clippers. Former Clipper Reggie Bullock suffered a torn meniscus Wednesday, Southern California native Stanley Johnson was slapped with a team-imposed one-game suspension, and PG Reggie Jackson is still out rehabbing from knee surgery.
None of that mattered, as the Pistons ended an 11-game losing streak to the Clippers by beating them 108-97, LA’s worst loss of the season and their first road loss after winning their first 7 away from home. The Pistons made 52.2 percent from the field and got another double-double from C Andre Drummond (16 points, 10 rebounds, 8/11 FGs).
The Clippers starters have been great together for most of this season, but they must not have adjusted to the Eastern Time Zone. The Pistons took a 31-14 lead with 3:32 left in the 1st quarter, and that was with Drummond and PF Marcus Morris in foul trouble. Detroit made 13 of their first 17 baskets of the game, including 6-of-7 FGs by the starting unit together, and the LA starters compiled a net rating of -102.4 in 7 minutes. Detroit SF Tobias Harris scored 9 of his 15 points in the 1st quarter, making all 4 FG attempts, and Mbah a Moute was beaten so bad that he didn’t play the entire 2nd quarter.
What was supposed to be a thin Pistons bench was bolstered by a player who has played well all season, backup PF Jon Leuer. Detroit’s lead got as high as 18 points after Leuer made a mid-range jumpshot with 8:06 left in the 2nd quarter. The Clippers were able to cut that lead in half to close the 1st half, mainly by outscoring Detroit 7-0 from the FT line.
Much like the Memphis loss at home last Wednesday, the Clippers battled all the way back from a huge deficit to take a lead in the 2nd half. Much like that Grizzlies game, it was Clippers SG J.J. Redick that got red hot. Redick scored 18 of LA’s 32 3rd quarter points, setting a career-high for points in a quarter while making 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from three.
The Pistons lead shrunk to 82-80 by the end of the 3rd quarter, and Clippers backup PG Raymond Felton made a layup from Jamal Crawford to give the Clippers an 84-82 lead with 10:00 left in the 4th quarter. Over the first 14:00 of the 2nd half, the Clippers outscored the Pistons 36-25, shooting 14-of-21 from the field while Detroit went 0-of-2 from the FT line in that stretch.
But just as the Clippers had the lead late against Memphis before dropping that game in the final minute, the Clippers would succumb in the 4th quarter in Detroit, seemingly collapsing underneath the weight of having to come back from an 18-point deficit.
Just as Clippers head coach Doc Rivers had to keep Mbah a Moute off the floor over the last 17:00 of the 1st half, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy decided to keep Harris off the floor for the entire 4th quarter, going with Morris and Leuer together. Rivers kept Crawford on the court with the rest of the Clippers starters way too long against a big Pistons lineup, and it worked out for Detroit:
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) November 26, 2016
Over the last 10:00 of the game, Morris made as many buckets by himself (5-of-6 FGs, 83.3 percent) as the Clippers made as a team (5-of-16 FGs, 31.3 percent), and the Pistons closed the game on a 26-13 run. Leuer joined Drummond by finishing with a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds), while Morris led the Pistons with 17 points on 8-of-13 FGs (61.5 percent) in only 22:09.
Clippers have first Eastern Conference road game tonight at Detroit. How can LA repeat their success from 32-point win 18 days ago?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) November 25, 2016
Detroit controlled this game overall, outrebounding the Clippers 42-32 while winning the turnover battle 14-10. DeAndre Jordan was held to 9 rebounds, and the Clippers are 0-2 when Jordan plays at least 30:00 and has fewer than 10 rebounds. Chris Paul had 15 assists, but he also had 5 turnovers and scored only 8 points on 2-of-9 FGs. Detroit PG Ish Smith outplayed Paul, scoring 16 points and making both three-point attempts while recording 7 assists and only 1 turnover – a much superior ratio. Smith didn’t even lead the Pistons in assists, as Pistons SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a career-high 10 assists to go with 16 points and 4-of-6 threes.
To compound a bad night for the Clippers, they no longer have the best record in the NBA … or the Western Conference … or the Pacific Division. The Golden State Warriors are now 14-2 after beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night for their 10th straight win. And the Clippers dropped from 2nd to 3rd in both offensive and defensive efficiency, while dropping from 1st to 2nd in net rating.
For what it’s worth, Paul didn’t think the team lacked energy to start the game:
“You know what, I’m going to tell you straight up because I’m in the locker room, I’m on the court with them so it wasn’t a lack of energy,” Paul said. “It’s just something that’s not the case. Guys were ready, guys were energized. It might not have started out that way; they were making shots.”