Detroit Pistons knock off the Clippers’ undefeated streak

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Blake Griffin
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Blake Griffin /

Going into Saturday night, not much was expected from the Detroit Pistons. Instead, they pulled off the upset to start the California road trip right.

Going into the next four days, my hope for the Detroit Pistons would be to steal the Tuesday night game against the Lakers. My original thinking was losses to the Clippers and Warriors, with beating the Lakers keeping Detroit at .500 after a tough road trip. With an early season California swing and Stan Van Gundy still trying to figure out the rotation, this felt like a dangerous trip.

While the country was watching college football and the World Series, the Pistons went into Los Angeles and captured one of the better wins of the NBA season, handing the Clippers their first loss of the season. Detroit’s fourth quarter was the best of the season, and Andre Drummond shined in the victory. Let’s break it down.

1. Biggest takeaway: The defensive effort and intensity

Going into Saturday night, the Clippers were shooting 51% from inside the arc. Clamping down with great help defense, the Pistons only allowed 13 made buckets inside the three-point line, holding the Clippers to 28.2% on two-point attempts. The rotational defense was spectacular, with Stanley Johnson shutting down Danilo Gallinari late and Anthony Tolliver slowing down Blake Griffin. Once again, the Pistons had too many fouls in the first half. However, it was not because of laziness or bad defense. The referees were calling it tight on both ends and the Pistons adjusted after halftime.

Avery Bradley is proving to be a great acquisition on the perimeter, and the guard defense is improving every game. Blake Griffin was a mismatch (power forwards are causing major issues) and once again Anthony Tolliver was the stopper. His length and smarts are giving the Pistons an energy on defense. I love watching Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson do work on the perimeter.

2. Player of the game: Andre Drummond

Stan Van Gundy commented that Andre Drummond had one of his best games since taking over as head coach. It is an accurate statement and shows the improvements in Drummond’s game. He did not a huge offensive night, but the defense was astounding. He kept DeAndre Jordan away from the rim and was hedging perfectly on the pick and roll. The rim protection was there, deterring multiple shots and collecting three blocks. His paint coverage was excellent and he is using his athleticism to correctly help on defense.

The raw numbers do not show the upgrades Drummond has made this year. Yes, Joel Embiid had a monster game in Detroit when the 76ers came to town. Other than that, Drummond has been playing well on the defensive end. He is becoming an enforcer and the Pistons are feeding off that. It’s only six games, but I love the attitude Drummond is showing. This is what the Pistons expect from their franchise center.

3. Stat of the night: 19 forced turnovers

I know, this is a boring post with all the defense talk. Yet that was the biggest reason for the victory late Saturday night. The Clippers were bothered all night by the aggressive defense. One thing the Pistons are doing better is simply rotating and helping. Detroit is playing the ball more, leading to more chances at steals and tipped passes. The ball-hawking approach is leading to fastbreak opportunities on the other end, resulting in 22 fastbreak points last night. Forcing 19 turnovers will lead to a lot of victories.

Overall, a perfect night for the Pistons. They pulled off an upset and started the road trip with a huge victory. Just an overall enjoyable performance by Stan Van Gundy and his team. The Clippers did extend the lead to 14 in the third quarter, but the Pistons were calm. They stopped the storm, still outscoring the Clippers by five in the period.

Next: Pistons trying to find consistency

The defending NBA champions are next and it will be a monumental task. We will know how legitimate this defense and this team is on Sunday night.