Detroit Pistons star forward Blake Griffin (knee) will miss tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers with left knee soreness.
Griffin didn’t play on Saturday’s 99-90 home win against the Portland Trail Blazers. He was listed in the starting lineup and went through pre-game warmups but was a late scratch as the knee injury gave him problems right before tip-off.
The Pistons need to keep winning because they’re in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, only a half-game over the Nets, one game over the Heat and 1.5 games over the Magic and their magic number for clinching a playoff spot is five.
Pistons Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Pacers
*Notates expected starter
C: Andre Drummond*, Zaza Pachulia
PF: Thon Maker*, Jon Leuer
SF: Bruce Brown*, Langston Galloway
SG: Wayne Ellington*, Luke Kennard, Glenn Robinson III
PG: Reggie Jackson*, Ish Smith
The Pistons struggled offensively without Blake Griffin in the first half against the Trail Blazers, scoring only 11 points in the first quarter and trailing 34-31 at halftime.
Thon Maker replaced Griffin in the starting lineup, scoring eight points in 28 minutes. He made four free-throws in the fourth quarter and had a nice assist to Andre Drummond.
Griffin not playing tonight could open up Thon Maker for some extra minutes once again, though Andre Drummond will likely get extra offensive touches and the biggest boost from Griffin’s absence. Drummond had 22 points, 19 rebounds and four assists on Saturday.
The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Pistons 59-45 and outscored them 66-54 in the paint but they turned the ball over 16 times and shot 38-for-102 from the field (37.3 percent) and 4-for-21 (19.0 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Pistons have won their last 11 home games and they’re 17-9 overall since February 1 while the Pacers are reeling, losing their last three games and seven of their last eight, falling to fifth place in the East.
Indiana lost 121-116 at home against Orlando last Saturday. Darren Collison finished with 24 points and nine assists but the Pacers committed 15 turnovers, missed six free-throws and were just 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range.
The Pacers defeated the Pistons 125-88 on December 28 in Indiana but they lost 113-109 in Detroit on February 25. Andre Drummond led the way for the Pistons with 26 points and 16 rebounds and Blake Griffin had a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Detroit won that game despite going 17-for-26 (65.4 percent) from the free-throw line and being effective from the charity stripe is a must tonight.
What helped the Pistons in that game was that they made 18 3-pointers, with Blake Griffin (five), Luke Kennard (five) and Wayne Ellington (4) combining for 14 of them. Tonight’s game will come down to Detroit’s effectiveness from 3-point range and at the free-throw line. Rebounding will be another key.
The Pistons are just 1-3 in the four games that Blake Griffin has missed this season and they’re averaging about eight points fewer per 100 possessions when he’s not on the court.
Griffin has played in 72 games this season, his most since the 2013-14 season. Griffin hasn’t played at least 80 regular season games since then and there’s no debate the Pistons need him for a playoff run.
Blake Griffin is averaging a career-high 24.7 points, along with 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 46.3 shooting and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc in 35.2 minutes.