Three Things to Know: Pistons haven’t lost with Blake Griffin

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Pistons haven’t lost with Blake Griffin, won four in a row after a victory over Trail Blazers. This is why Stan Van Gundy traded for Blake Griffin — to wake up and shake up his team to make a playoff push. That’s not to say it’s all been Griffin, he has just been his usual self (when healthy) since coming to Detroit — 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his three games in a new uniform. His shooting efficiency is slightly down, his rebounding marginally better, but he’s moving the ball, and with him the Pistons are passing better, leading to cleaner looks. Also, the team is defending well with him.

The result: Detroit has won its three games with Griffin, the team has won four in a row, and after a comfortable 111-91 win over Portland on Monday Detroit has moved into a virtual tie with Philadelphia for the final playoff slot in the East. What’s more, the winning should continue for the Pistons through a soft part of the schedule (Brooklyn is next, followed Friday by a Clippers team that could look very different after the trade deadline, then Atlanta).

If you want to see what Griffin brings to this roster, this play sums it up: He grabs the board, brings the ball up himself, and sees Andre Drummond (the NBA Player of the Week in the East) running the floor and hits him with an alley-oop. Guys will run, will cut and move off the ball with purpose if they believe they will get rewarded.

Or, Griffin can just hit a shot that would give you an “H” in H-O-R-S-E (even if it didn’t count).

I still have serious long-term reservations about the Griffin trade for Detroit, how it boxes them in financially long term and what the ceiling is for this team with him, considering his health issues. But in the short term (this season and next) Van Gundy wanted to make the Pistons a playoff team. Griffin can do — and is doing — just that.

2) Robin Lopez absolutely snaps, takes out his frustrations on a helpless chair in the hallway. Bulls center Robin Lopez was having issues with the officiating almost from the opening tip it seemed Monday night against the Kings, and through the second quarter his anger — and his verbal abuse of the officials — was rising. He was pushing getting a technical. He was acting like one of the officials told him the new Star Wars movie sucked.

Then he snapped. And I mean “get the man a valium” snapped. Lopez was called for contact with Willie Cauley-Stein trying to deny a pass, and LOST IT.

Lopez earned his ejection, then took his frustrations out on an innocent chair in the hallway.

A fine is coming, that is pretty much the definition of “not leaving the court in a timely manner.”

3) Utah has won six in a row, injected itself back into the playoff race in West. A couple of weeks ago we thought Utah was out of the playoff chase in the West and would be sellers at the trade deadline. Part of that is still true, there is a lot of interest in Rodney Hood around the league and there is a real chance he is in a new uniform before Friday, and Joe Johnson is trying to orchestrate a trade out of Utah.

However, the Jazz are back in the playoff mix, thanks to an offense that has taken off. Utah has scored 115.7 points per 100 possessions during a six-game win streak that continued Monday with a win over New Orleans — the Jazz offense the last six games has been better than the Warriors offense on the season (113.4 per 100). Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert is back and the Jazz defense is giving up less than a point per possession during the streak.

The Jazz are currently three games out of the final playoff slot in the West still, but need to pass a Pelicans team stumbling without DeMarcus Cousins, and a Clipper team that doesn’t have Blake Griffin and could be without more stars by Friday after the trade deadline, they have a real chance. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives Utah a 74 percent chance of making the postseason (better than the Clippers or Pelicans, both at 53 percent). Cleaning The Glass projects the Pelicans and Jazz to both finish with 43 wins and take the final two playoff slots, with Portland and the Clippers at 42 and on the outside looking in. Obviously, there is a lot of season left to go, but a Jazz team torn apart by injuries all season long has kept it together, and now they have a real shot at the playoffs. Quin Snyder deserves a lot of credit for that, as does rookie Donovan Mitchell.