Evidently, Blake Griffin’s not totally used to seeing BlakeGriffin in a DetroitPistons uniform yet, either.
The five-time All-Star power forward made his debut as a member of the Detroit Pistons against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena in Michigan, taking what the Pistons and their fans hoped would be his first steps toward elevating the team back into the Eastern Conference playoff race and back into broader NBA relevance. He got off to a hot start, scoring six points in his first six minutes, grabbing three boards and swatting a JaMychal Green layup to introduce himself to the Motor City faithful and stake the Pistons to an early lead. Memphis would battle back, though, riding balanced contributions and strong play from point guard Andrew Harrison to head into halftime with the score knotted at 51.
When the two teams came back onto the court for the second half, Griffin was raring to go and eager to pick up where he’d left off in a 13-point first half. There was just one problem, though: he wasn’t dressed for the occasion.
— Evan Jankens (@KINGoftheKC) February 2, 2018
Griffin’s not the first guy to forget to put his jersey on before heading out to the court; hell, he’s not even the first dude to do it this season. Still, considering it’s his first game in a new city and all, you’d think you’d be paying extra attention to all the little details … like, y’know, whether you’ve got your shirt on.
“You know what, I’m just gonna blame it on a new environment and my track record. I’ve never done that before,” Griffin said with a laugh after the game. “I knew — I went to go take my shirt off and I was like, ‘Something doesn’t feel right.’ I pulled it off and I saw that I only had my undershirt on, and I just … I don’t know. I just needed Anthony Tolliver to get a stop for me.”
Tolliver came through — naturally, as if the ever-reliable vet would do anything else — and after a helpful assistant retrieved his garment, Griffin got back to work, splashing a jumper on the next Pistons possession.
Neither team could generate any separation after intermission. The entire second half was played within two possessions, with Griffin, Andre Drummond and swingman Stanley Johnson carrying the load for Detroit while Marc Gasol, Harrison and rookie forward Dillon Brooks answered the bell for Memphis. A Griffin feed for a Tolliver 3-pointer gave Detroit a 101-100 lead with just under two minutes to go, and after Griffin — playing small-ball center in crunch time, as Stan Van Gundy made the interesting decision to begin the Griffin-Drummond partnership by sitting his All-Star center down the stretch — got the benefit of a swallowed whistle while guarding Gasol in the late stages …
Uhhhhh this was a no call from the ref in a 1 point game with a minute left pic.twitter.com/FvlUmj9Lhc
— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) February 2, 2018
… and after Gasol’s try with 10 seconds left came up empty, leading to an all-hands-on-deck scramble for the loose ball …
The ending of Pistons-Grizzlies wasn't the prettiest, but it was entertaining. EVERYBODY HIT THE DECK! https://t.co/9MJ2goYAMf
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) February 2, 2018
… the Pistons were able to hold on for a 104-102 win. In his first game in Detroit, Griffin led the way, scoring 24 points on 6-for-12 shooting (with an 11-for-13 mark at the foul line) to go with 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. The Pistons outscored Memphis by 23 points in Griffin’s 35 minutes; no wonder Drummond and injured point guard Reggie Jackson seemed so happy after the game:
Reggie Jackson & Andre Drummond welcome Blake Griffin to Detroit pic.twitter.com/JMgcQkBO2C
— AP (@Ananth_Pandian) February 2, 2018
There are reasons to be skeptical about Detroit’s decision to trade for Griffin — the worry that comes with assuming a $141 million contract over the next four years, fears about whether Blake can stay healthy enough to be worth that money, uncertainty surrounding whether or not a Griffin-Drummond-Jackson core (without much wing depth to speak of) is good enough to be the heart of a conference title contender, etc. This, though, was what the Pistons hoped to get from Griffin: efficient scoring, a steady drumbeat to the foul line, the ability to run the break and orchestrate in the half-court, the start of some chemistry with Drummond and the flexibility to play the five in smaller lineups when things get tight. Detroit won this game because Blake Griffin played in it; you can’t ask for much more than that.
Well, outside of remembering to put his jersey back on next time, maybe.
More NBA coverage:
– – – – – – –