Blake Griffin answers questions after scoring 44 points in Pistons 109-104 win over Clippers, his former team, in L.A. on Jan. 12, 2019.
Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press
LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin performed like a man that desperately wanted this Saturday afternoon game.
But it was a rookie with the decisive play to deliver a needed victory for Griffin and the Detroit Pistons.
Griffin scored 44 points to lead the Pistons to a 109-104 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers, his first game at Staples Center against the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009.
Griffin was magnificent, shooting 13-for-23 from the field and adding eight rebounds and five assists in an emotional performance that snapped a four-game losing skid.
But with 21.2 seconds left and the Pistons clinging to a three-point lead, it was rookie Bruce Brown who came up with the key defensive stop.
Defending Clippers go-to scorer Lou Williams, Brown came up with a steal.
He was fouled and made the free throws to account for the final score.
Andre Drummond scored 20 points and grabbed 21 rebounds for the Pistons (18-23).
The three former Pistons traded for Griffin — Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic — combined for 14 points. Marjanovic didn’t play for the Clippers (24-18).
It was fitting that Griffin corralled the final rebound of the game.
He faked like he was going in for a final dunk, but dribbled out the final seconds.
Griffin exchanged words with Clippers guard Patrick Beverly after the horn and both teams gathered near midcourt, but the two players were separated.
Griffin’s 44 points are the second-most in NBA history in a player’s first road game against his former team, and the most since 1977-78, according to Elias Sports.
Griffin received a warm reception during pregame introductions and banter from the crowd was appreciative.
No. 1 fan Clipper Darrell summed up the afternoon with a few words when Griffin stepped to the free-throw line in the first half.
“Hey, Blake! You know I love you, right?” he yelled.
Then he gave Griffin his customary razzing. “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly!”
At the game’s first stoppage, the Clippers organization played a montage of Griffin’s greatest moments in Los Angeles.
Pistons start hot
The Pistons have been sluggish the first two outings of this four-game trip.
But galvanized by the emotion from Griffin, the team played with a sense of urgency not seen in weeks.
Griffin scored 11 points in the first quarter, but it was a team effort.
Reggie Jackson started the game 3-for-4 from the field with two 3-pointers to score eight points.
The entire team was hot from 3-point range, shooting 5-for-8 to take a 37-24 lead after the first quarter.
Khyri Thomas emerges
When Brown picked up his third foul with 4:15 remaining in the first half, Pistons coach Dwane Casey turned to rookie Khyri Thomas.
And he played well, nailing a corner 3-pointer to give the Pistons a 63-52 lead with 1:09 left in the second quarter. The Pistons led 65-54 at halftime.
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