Blake Griffin scored 44 points in his return to Staples Center for the first time against his old team and the Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 on Saturday to snap a four-game skid.
Griffin was greeted with cheers during pregame introductions and received a standing ovation after a first-quarter video tribute from the team that drafted him first overall in 2009.
He stuck his right arm in the air and then brought his raised hands together in a thankful gesture without smiling. He clearly wanted to beat the team that stunningly traded him last January after he had signed a $171 million, five-year extension.
It showed from the start.
Griffin scored 15 points in the opening quarter when he got razzed by superfan Clipper Darrell during free throw attempts. He had 26 points in the first half to help Detroit to a 65-54 lead.
“Hey Blake, we miss you but enough for tonight, OK?” a Clippers fan implored.
Griffin wasn’t done.
His 3-pointer to start the third and a basket by Andre Drummond pushed Detroit to a 16-point lead. Griffin had a one-hand slam reminiscent of his old Lob City days.
Griffin briefly left the court near the end of the third. He wore a wrap around his waist before entering for the fourth.
The Clippers tied it at 97 on a 3-pointer by Lou Williams after outscoring the Pistons 17-7 to open the fourth.
Reggie Bullock had two 3-pointers around Drummond’s dunk and Griffin’s hook for a 107-99 lead.
The Clippers got within three and Griffin missed two 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
He stepped out of bounds in the corner of the baseline while trying to save a pass and fell backward, crashing into fans and the floor.
Bruce Brown stole the ball with 20 seconds left, got fouled by Danilo Gallinari and made both to keep Detroit ahead 109-104. Gallinari’s jumper missed in the waning seconds.
Drummond had 20 points and 21 rebounds for the Pistons, who had lost nine of 11. Bullock finished with 17.
Gallinari led the Clippers with 23 points. Williams added 22 points, and Harrell had 21 points and nine rebounds.
Griffin averaged 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in eight seasons for the Clippers. He was the Rookie of the Year and a five-time All-Star with the franchise.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he and Griffin haven’t spoken since the trade. But Rivers credited him for the franchise’s resurgence.
“Blake got this started,” Rivers said before the game. “Six playoffs in a row. It doesn’t equate to being the winner because we didn’t do that but it equates to winning. Blake was part of that. Now when you hear our name you don’t think of those bad Clippers before Blake.”
Pistons: Drummond had his NBA-leading ninth game of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. … Griffin played at Staples on Wednesday night when the Pistons lost to the Lakers 113-100. … C Zaza Pachulia (right lower leg contusion) missed his seventh straight game. … G Ish Smith (right adductor tear) sat out his 19th straight game.
Clippers: They lost their first game against Griffin’s Pistons in Detroit within days of last year’s trade. Griffin had 19 points in that game.
Pistons: At Utah on Monday night in the finale of four-game Western swing.
Clippers: Host New Orleans on Monday night.
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