AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Second-year center Andre Drummond established a defensive presence in the early going Tuesday. His Detroit teammates eventually took the same approach, and that allowed the Pistons to end a three-game skid.
Drummond sent a message to Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings’ leading scorer, by blocking three of his shots in the first quarter. Cousins failed to reach 20 points for the first time in six games, and the Pistons limited the Kings to 35 second-half points in a 99-89 victory at The Palace.
“Andre is a force down there,” Pistons guard Kyle Singler said. “He’s going to make plays like that. He has to make plays like that. We’re not great on-the-ball defenders, and guys are getting by us, so for him to protect the rim like that, it’s big for us.”
It was a rare display of quality defense by Detroit, which held an opponent under 100 points for just the fourth time in 18 games.
“We just limited them to one shot (after halftime),” said Pistons forward Josh Smith, who had a game-high 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “We gave up too many offensive rebounds and second-chance points. We wanted to put a halt to it, and that’s what we were able to do in the third quarter.”
Guard Rodney Stuckey scored 23 points off the bench for Detroit (25-39) after contributing just 13 points in his previous three games. Stuckey is averaging 19.9 points in 11 career games against Sacramento, his highest against any opponent.
“When Stuck’s attacking, he makes us a dynamic team,” Detroit guard Will Bynum said. “I was just glad to see he was attacking tonight.”
Drummond added 15 points and eight rebounds to go along with five blocks. Singler chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds and five of the team’s nine steals.
Small forward Rudy Gay’s 20 points led Sacramento, which lost its third game in a row and fell for the sixth time in eight games. Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 19 points and eight assists, but Cousins was limited to 13 points while grabbing 14 rebounds.
“We got stagnant after we started missing shots,” Gay said. “When you’re missing shots, you try to force things. I do think for the most part we took a lot of good shots and tried to get into the paint, but it just didn’t work out for us.”
The Kings (22-42) clinched a losing record for the eighth straight season. Their last winning season was 2005-06, when they went 44-38. Sacramento is 1-3 on its season-long, seven-game road trip.
The Pistons scored the first eight points of the second half, including 3-pointers by Smith and point guard Brandon Jennings, to grab a 60-54 lead. Smith had nine points in the quarter and Drummond added six as Detroit took a 72-65 lead into the fourth quarter.
Sacramento shot 20 percent from the field (4-for-20) during the third and scored just 11 points.
“I thought we lost that game in the third quarter,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “We did not come out ready to play. We were just not able to get stops. It’s a disappointing loss.”
Singler gave the Pistons their first double-digit lead at 75-65 with a free throw, and Stuckey followed with a 3-pointer. Detroit’s lead remained in double figures until an 8-0 Sacramento run closed the gap to 89-81.
Smith hit a jumper to end the Kings’ spurt, and Detroit was not threatened from that point.
Thomas had 15 points and five assists in the first half, leading the Kings to a 54-52 halftime advantage.
NOTES: Veteran PF Reggie Evans made his first start since being acquired by Sacramento last month from the Brooklyn Nets. … Detroit has won the last four home meetings. He finished with six points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. … The Kings are 3-24 when scoring fewer than 100 points. … Pistons C Andre Drummond has 348 offensive rebounds this season, the fourth-best total in team history. Dennis Rodman holds the top three spots, including a franchise-record 523 in 1991-92. … Sacramento is the only team with three players averaging 20 points — C DeMarcus Cousins (22.4 points per game), PG Isaiah Thomas (20.4) and SF Rudy Gay (20.2). … The Kings have only four healthy guards on the roster with Jason Terry (knee) out for the season. … Neither team has a winning streak longer than four games this season. … Detroit rookie PG Peyton Siva (left ankle sprain) was not in uniform.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.