- Blake Griffin went off for 50 points, including scoring the game-winning free throw, against the 76ers and got revenge on Joel Embiid, who had flopped and gotten Andre Drummond ejected earlier in the game.
It has not been an ideal calendar year for the Detroit Pistons. The team traded for Blake Griffin in January, but saw his high-flying act turn into too many pull-up jumpers en route to missing the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy was fired as coach and president in May. Their downtown Detroit arena is almost always half-empty. And the Reggie Jackson contract still exists. So it’s actually pretty refreshing to see the Pistons jump out to a 3–0 start this month, the latest victory (133–132) coming over a Ben Simmons-less 76ers squad Tuesday night.
In what continued the trend of absurdly entertaining early regular season games, Detroit and Philly battled into overtime, and traded some ludicrous shots in the extra period. The Pistons jumped out to a six-point lead on back-to-back threes, including a pull-up from Griffin. Philly eventually took a two-point lead thanks in large part to J.J. Redick, who scored ten points on only three possessions. But the game was iced by Griffin, who scored his 48th, 49th and 50th points on a beautiful fake handoff that turned into a dash to the rim and an and-one with less than two seconds to go.
Griffin has been on a tear to start the season. He scored 26 and 33 in his first two games. His scoring average is now 36.3 after dropping a half-century on the Sixers. And he outdueled Joel Embiid—who still finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists—as the lovable big man ventured into bully territory near the end of regulation.
Embiid is known for torturing his fellow fives in the East. (Hassan Whiteside’s entire redemption narrative is being built off how thoroughly outplayed he was by Embiid in the playoffs.) Andre Drummond has been a frequent target of Embiid’s pokes, and on the court, the Philly center has a clear advantage. In the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game, Embiid went a little bit too far for my taste—flopping in a successful attempt to get Drummond ejected from the game. Embiid cheered a little too gleefully as Drummond was forced to exit. It’s one thing to dominate him and troll on social media after. It’s another to revel in an uninspiring flop.
But Embiid wouldn’t have much more to cheer for after that. He didn’t score in overtime. With less than a minute to go, he got stripped by Zaza Pachulia and ended up fouling him. And then Embiid missed a potential game-winner—with a good contest from Pachulia to boot. It was a fitting end for Jojo, who had to take his last shot in the face of perhaps the human embodiment of a troll in Pachulia.
For one night, anyway, the Pistons were the good guys. And with Dwane Casey leading the ship, they’ve made things work so far. Maybe there’s hope in Detroit. Don’t hold me to that four months from now. But at the very least, unlike one of their opponents, the Pistons had a reason to cheer Tuesday night.