LOS ANGELES: Lou Williams scored a team-high 26 points as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Detroit Pistons 108-95, spoiling Blake Griffin’s bid to beat his former team on Friday night (Saturday in Manila).
Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to score 18 points and DeAndre Jordan added 17 rebounds as the visiting Clippers snapped the Pistons’ five-game winning streak.
“With the style Doc (coach Rivers) has put into place, we got some pretty solid pieces and we have shown that in the last few games. So far so good,” said Williams.
One longtime piece was missing for the Clippers, but it didn’t matter. They dealt Griffin to Detroit last month and Friday was his first opportunity to get even, but instead it turned into his first loss.
Griffin had re-signed with the Clippers in July with the understanding that he’d be a ‘Clipper for life.’ His tenure with the Clippers after inking a $171 million contract lasted just over half a season.
Griffin, who said he found out about the trade on Twitter, struggled from the floor against his former teammates, making just seven of 19 shots and finishing with 19 points in front of a crowd of 16,700 at Little Caesars Arena.
During his time with the Clippers, Griffin was sometimes criticised for being too soft. On Friday he tried to establish a physical presence early, receiving a technical foul in the first quarter after jostling with one of the Clippers.
“I have seen him compete night in and night out. This is a game he wanted, so the magnifying glass is on him,” said Williams, who was playing his first game since signing a three-year, 24 million contract extension.
In fairness to Griffin, the whole Pistons team was out of sync with the game on the line. Detroit scored just 15 points in the final quarter after leading by three, 80-77, after three quarters.
“We didn’t, obviously, play the way we wanted to. I didn’t play the way I wanted to,” Griffin said. “But that’s the NBA. We had a good five-game run, and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”
Tobias Harris scored 12 points and Avery Bradley had 10. They were the key players the Clippers acquired in the deal that sent Griffin to Detroit. They both received loud cheers when the starting lineups were announced.
Elsewhere, Hassan Whiteside had 12 points and 16 rebounds and Dwyane Wade got a warm welcome in his return to south Florida as the Miami Heat beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-85.
Wade scored just three points but still made his presence felt by delivering a key block late in the game as the Heat snapped a five-game losing skid.
Three NBA titles
Wade finished with 22 minutes of floor time in his first game since being acquired in a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
He played 13 seasons and won three NBA championships in Miami before leaving as a free agent for his hometown Chicago Bulls in 2016.
Wade did not start but entered halfway through the first quarter and received a standing ovation from the crowd of 20,010 at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Tyler Johnson scored 19 points and Bam Adebayo added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh Richardson chipped in 16 points for Miami.
In Atlanta, LeBron James had a triple-double and Kyle Korver scored a season-high 30 points as Cleveland defeated the Atlanta Hawks 123-107 for a successful start after retooling their roster at the trade deadline.
“It felt like we played together,” said James, who had 22 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds in 41 minutes.
“Offensively and defensively the communication was really high. The ball was moving around. The ball was popping and everybody felt like they were in a good rhythm.”
One day after unloading six players, including guards Isaiah Thomas and Wade, in three trades, the Cavaliers used a patchwork roster against the Hawks.
Korver helped make up for a short bench, making seven of 13 from beyond the arc and finishing two points shy of equaling his career high of 32 points.