DETROIT – Blake Griffin has heard the critics, but the veteran forward knows it’ll take more nights like Tuesday to get where his team wants to go.
Griffin scored a career-high 50 points and had the game-winner after he was fouled on a driving layup with 1.8 seconds left as Detroit topped Philadelphia 133-132 in a wild overtime thriller.
Riddled with injuries during his last few years with the Los Angeles Clippers and then traded last season by his first pro team, Griffin has talked this offseason about proving something.
“The past two or three years, all I hear about is how bad I am,” Griffin said. “It’s a big win, but we’ve got to move on. This is game three and now we’ve got to move on to game four.”
The Pistons are 3-0 for the first time since 2015-16, the last time they made the playoffs, topping the 76ers, who were without Ben Simmons, who was nursing back tightness.
JJ Redick’s four-point play with 5.6 seconds left in overtime set up Griffin’s dramatics, while Joel Embiid, who had 33 points and 11 rebounds, missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer after working a two-man game with Redick.
“We were trying to bait the switch, you know maybe slip Joel to the rim, maybe step him out,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “Joel had an open look and just wasn’t able to knock it down.”
Griffin faked a handoff on the final play and drove the lane for the basket, getting fouled by Robert Covington. He made the ensuing free throw.
“Out of all the great players I worked with, Dirk (Nowitzki), Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Kemp, all those guys, he’s playing at that high a level right now,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “But again that is what we expect from Blake because he is that good of a player.”
Griffin was 20 of 35 from the field, going 5-for-10 on 3-pointers, scoring his most points as a member of the Pistons for the second straight game. He missed his first six free throws of the game.
“It starts with like believing,” Griffin said. “I saw a lot of times last year where guys were kind of like defeated. Everybody stayed positive, and that was huge.”
And Griffin stayed hot.
He dunked on Embiid with 3:50 to go in the second quarter, a frame where he scored 22 points.
“Some of us tried to stop him, and he just had an amazing day,” said Dario Saric, who scored 14 points for Philly. “We tried everything but sometimes you can’t, you know?”
Redick had 30 points and scored a 3-pointer while being fouled by Reggie Jackson after the Pistons point guard made two free throws to take a 130-128 lead.
Jackson had 23 points and Ish Smith scored 21 for the Pistons.
Pelicans 116, Clippers 109
Nuggets 126, Kings 112