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 after 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, 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.
Detroit took the lead for the first time since late in the first quarter as two Griffin free throws put the Pistons up 111-110 with 3:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Then, down the stretch of regulation, the teams traded the lead six times, with three ties.
With the teams tied 120-all, Embiid missed a 3-pointer and Reggie Bullock missed a runner in the lane. On the final play of regulation, Saric had an open look on a 3-pointer but missed it in the closing seconds.
76ers: Rookie guard Landry Shamet made his first career start for Philadelphia. The 26th pick out of Wichita State had five points in 24 minutes. . Mike Muscala, acquired in a three-team trade from Atlanta this offseason, made his debut of for the 76ers after missing the first three games with a sprained ankle. He scored five points in 17 minutes.
Pistons: Andre Drummond was ejected with 40.8 seconds left in regulation after his second technical foul. . Glenn Robinson III, acquired as a free agent from Indiana, did not play after logging 33 minutes combined in the first two games.
BEN’S BAD BACK
Brown said Simmons is questionable for Wednesday at Milwaukee after leaving Saturday’s game against Orlando in the first quarter.
“He didn’t feel as comfortable as we would’ve wanted,” Brown said. “It’s just one of those things that with a back-to-back game and giving him the best chance we could give him to possibly play (Wednesday), we felt like it was wise to sit him tonight.”
Starting at point guard with Simmons out, Markelle Fultz tied his career high with 13 points.
He knocked down a long two-pointer for the game’s first points and later making his second career 3-pointer.
Griffin’s output was the highest for a Pistons player since Richard Hamilton scored 51 points on Dec. 27, 2006 triple-overtime loss to the New York Knicks.
Griffin’s point total was the seventh-highest in Pistons history and he is the fifth different player to score 50 for Detroit.
76ers: Wednesday they will play Milwaukee, which has won its first three games. The Bucks are averaging 118.3 points per game, which was tied for second-most in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday’s games.
Pistons: Thursday they host Cleveland, which will be on a back-to-back after playing host to Brooklyn on Wednesday.
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