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The Detroit Pistons will be running more plays for Blake Griffin as he settles in. He did just fine in his team debut with a few basic plays.
Griffin had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the Pistons’ 104-102 victory over Memphis on Thursday. Griffin didn’t even get a chance to practice with his new team, so coach Stan Van Gundy ran a few basic sets with the five-time All-Star power forward in the game.
Van Gundy added a few more sets during Griffin’s first full practice on Friday. The Pistons, who have won two straight following an eight-game losing streak, host Miami on Saturday night.
“We put in a bunch more today, four or five more,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll just keeping adding a little bit day-by-day. Don’t want to go (over) too much but there were some things we didn’t have in to run for him (Thursday) that we wanted to add.”
Griffin, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a blockbuster trade on Monday, immediately gave the Pistons a new element just by his sheer talent. Griffin’s aggressive drives forced the Grizzlies to foul him and he scored 11 points from the free throw line.
“He got to the line 13 times but he goes so hard all the time, he could have very easily shot another six free throws in that game,” Van Gundy said.
Griffin’s frontcourt partner, Andre Drummond, scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. The Pistons are hoping their dynamic big man duo can carry them to the playoffs. They’re currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference at 24-26.
“When you have two super-dynamic players that never played with each other before, sometimes there’s a tendency to defer. ‘Make sure I get out of his way’ and stuff like that,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “I just told both of them be aggressive, play your game and do what you normally do and you’ll figure it out. We’ll all figure it out.”
Miami center Hassan Whiteside thinks it will take time — perhaps beyond this season, before the Griffin-Drummond pairing reaches their full potential.
“Only time will tell,” he told the Sun Sentinel. “But (Griffin is) playing well. He played well last night. They’re going to be a tough duo … It’s early to tell. Give them the year. I don’t know how much better or how it’s going to play out.”
Like many people around the league, Whiteside was caught off guard by Detroit’s bold move.
“I think it shocked a lot of people,” he told the Sun Sentinel. “Me and Blake are with the same agency. I believe him when he says he was actually shocked about it. It surprised a lot of people. It’s good he’s with a team that he feels like he can move on with.”
The Heat (29-23) lost at Philadelphia 103-97 on Friday night. Miami trailed by 26 after three quarters, then made a frantic comeback with mostly reserves on the floor. The Heat got as close as four in the final minute.
The four-game season series between Miami and Detroit is tied 1-1. They match up again on March 3 in Miami.