The Grizzlies and Pistons are set to face off in a must win game for both teams on the penultimate night of the NBA season. The Pistons need a win to help solidify and clinch a playoff berth for the first time since the 2015-2016 season. The Grizzlies need a win to help put themselves in the best position to convey their first round pick to the Boston Celtics.
To get caught up on all the things that have been going on in Detroit’s world, I spoke with Ben Quagliata of Detroit Bad Boys. Here’s what he had to say.
1) Blake Griffin has quietly evolved his game over the years and is still a top player in the NBA. What has impressed you most with his skill set since his arrival in Detroit last season?
I think what’s impressed me, and most NBA fans in general this season with Blake has been how he’s maintained such a high level of efficiency scoring at all three levels, while dealing with the effects of declining athleticism. What most Pistons fans were scared of was whether he’d be able to stay healthy, and he’s done that (apart from a sore knee the last week that’s threatening to ruin everything). He has always been an inside presence and a great passer, but his consistent three point stroke has been a very pleasant surprise.
2) With a full season with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond under the Pistons belt, do you think the duo works for the Pistons or should they make a move involving one of them this offseason?
Without this duo, the Pistons are winning 25 games. They need to go into the off-season with the mantra to build around this pairing, surrounding them with shooting first and foremost. The problems the Pistons have faced haven’t been due to Blake and Dre. Inconsistency and injuries at the PG slot have been prevalent, as has the inconsistent play of the bench. Without Drummond, the team can’t get a rebound or stop anyone inside, while playing without Blake offensively is like trying to eat soup with a fork. The Pistons have several problems, but this duo is holding it together.
Griffin and Drummond have displayed a really effective 4-5 pick and roll, getting bigger centers to switch onto Blake. Then it’s a pick your poison scenario. Blake can break down most centers off the dribble and draw fouls with alarming regularity, while Drummond has developed his post game enough to frequently bully smaller players switched onto him.
3) The Pistons were one of the teams mentioned most in Mike Conley trade rumors at the trade deadline. What do you think was the deal-breaker for the Pistons that would have caused the talks to fizzle?
My guess was the willingness to include young assets like Luke Kennard or a first round pick. Conley is great, but he really wouldn’t have solved the Pistons issues at the time, especially because Reggie Jackson was actually playing pretty well at the deadline. Trading for Conley would’ve been a pretty clear signal of intent from ownership to ‘win now’, putting his massive salary with Griffin and Drummond for the next two years. Also, management likely recognized the team wasn’t going anywhere fast, and made deals that reflected patience and waiting (Bullock for Mykhailiuk and a 2nd rounder, taking a flyer on Thon Maker), rather than putting all the eggs in this season’s basket.
4) The Pistons control their playoff destiny, as they’ll clinch their postseason ticket if they win their remaining two games (Grizzlies and Knicks). What’s your prediction on how the Pistons wrap up the regular season?
I’d love to think the Pistons will handily account for the Grizzlies’ skeleton crew and the hapless Knicks, but the reality is that the Pistons have had a chance to slam the door shut for the last week or so and haven’t been able to, even wasting a 45 point, 9 three exhibition from Blake. I still think they’ll get in, one win rules out Miami from overtaking them due to conference record tiebreaker, and Charlotte needs to remain perfect, and the Pistons last two opponents, with all due respect, aren’t exactly good teams. It’s just annoying because they’ve made this far harder for themselves than they needed to. The ideal scenario is for the Pistons to win out and for Charlotte to beat Orlando, giving Detroit 7th and a first round against Toronto, who they’ve somehow swept. But realistically, these guys aren’t winning more than a game in the postseason, so just making it is fine by me.
5) What match-up are you looking forward to the most in tonight’s game? (Sorry half the Grizzlies are hurt and make this question much less exciting)
[checks notes to see who is active for Memphis]
I guess Bruno Caboclo has finally completed the 4 years of waiting Fran Fraschilla outlined when he was drafted, so I’ll say him vs. whoever the Pistons trot out at power forward. Griffin has a sore knee that kept him out for a few games, returning for the last two, but he looked visibly hobbled against Charlotte. If so, Thon Maker will start at PF, so it will be an absolute dream for any length fetishists out there. Also, Delon Wright has a triple double streak, so that’s cool, and Reggie Jackson has been below average the last week, so maybe he can bounce back.
I know Memphis wants to convey their pick to Boston sooner, but don’t feel the need to try too hard for this game, please?
(Author’s note: De’Andre Hunter did look reallllly good last night)