It’s been nearly two months since Blake Griffin played his final game with the Detroit Pistons. He made hisreturn to Little Caesars Arena on Friday, and it led to one of the more contentious games of the season.
Griffin scored 17 points in 20 minutes to help the Nets defeat the Pistons (12-32), 113-111. Newcomer Cory Joseph, who was traded to Detroit on Wednesday, missed a game-tying layup as the final buzzer sounded.
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It was the third time this season that the Pistons competed with the best team in the Eastern Conference. They defeated the Nets, 122-111, at LCA on Feb. 9, and lost to them on the road on March 13, 100-95.
Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 19 points and three blocks, Saddiq Bey and Frank Jackson scored 14 points each (on a combined 7-for-10 shooting from 3) and Mason Plumlee added 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. James Harden led all scorers with 44 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
In his return, Blake Griffin receives a warm and cold welcome
Friday’s game was one that many Pistons fans, if not the Pistons themselves, had circled on the calendar. It was Blake Griffin’s first game against his former team after Griffin agreed to part ways with the Pistons in mid-February, and accepted a buyout earlier this month.
It was a pleasant parting of ways. The Pistons expressed gratitude for Griffin’s three seasons with the franchise, while Griffin thanked the organization for helping him resume his career on his terms. When he checked into Friday’s game toward the end of the first quarter, the crowd gave him a round of applause, with a couple scattered boos. The video screen later played a montage of his highlights and interactions with fans. He smiled and acknowledged the crowd during the timeout.
The tenor of the game began to change in the second quarter, when Griffin lightly elbowed Isaiah Stewart after grabbing a rebound. Stewart returned the favor, and Griffin fell to the floor. After a review, the refs whistled Griffin for a flopping foul, and Stewart for a Flagrant-2. Stewart was ejected.
Griffin dunked for the first time at Little Caesars Arena this season in the third quarter, and appeared to say something to the Pistons bench after dunking a lob from Harden midway through the fourth quarter. A couple minutes later, he and Bey exchanged words after Bey blew past him for a dunk after a foul. Griffin appeared to lean into the heel role as the game went on, and the crowd began to oblige by booing him.
After the game, Griffin warmly greeted his former teammates and several fans lingered behind to cheer for him as he left the court. Once the buzzer sounded, the hostilities present during the game disappeared.
Overall, it was a chaotic game. Both teams combined for 57 fouls and seven technical fouls. The crowd was engaged and several fans yelled smack talk to Griffin and Harden throughout the night. The Pistons mostly rose to the occasion despite the outcome, playing the Nets down to the wire for the third time this season.
Diallo, Joseph make debuts with Pistons
Hamidou Diallo and Cory Joseph were acquired in trades this month. And they both played their first game in a Pistons jersey on Friday. The Delon Wright-Joseph trade was officially cleared in the morning, while Diallo returned from missing his first seven games as a Piston while nursing a groin injury.
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They both contributed off of the bench. Diallo finished with six points in 21 minutes, while Joseph played the entire fourth quarter and tallied nine points in 18 minutes.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.