Pistons returned to playoffs but still have a way to go
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Pistons haven’t made the playoffs much in the last decade — and when they have, their stay has been a short one.
So after being swept by top-seeded Milwaukee this year, the Pistons hope this is just a start.
“It was exciting. It was a lot of fun,” guard Luke Kennard said. “Obviously not what we wanted to happen when we got there, but getting there was our first goal as a team. There’s just a lot to learn from it.”
The Pistons made the playoffs for only the second time in the last 10 seasons, but after four losses to the Bucks, Detroit has now dropped an NBA-record 14 straight postseason games. The Pistons haven’t won one since 2008.
The immediate goal — making the playoffs in coach Dwane Casey’s first season at the helm — was accomplished. In fact, it looked like the Pistons might make the postseason comfortably after they won 15 of 20 games during a stretch in February and March. But knee problems hampered star Blake Griffin down the stretch, and Detroit barely made the playoff field as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
That meant a meeting with the Bucks, and the Pistons were overmatched, losing the four games by a combined 95 points.
Griffin had a terrific season, averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 75 games. He missed the first two games of the playoffs but was able to play in Games 3 and 4 in Detroit. After the Pistons were eliminated Monday night, he expressed his appreciation for what he and his teammates had done.
“He just gave a passionate speech in the locker room about how proud he was to play with those guys, and the future that he sees with the young players coming through,” Casey said.
On Tuesday at team’s practice facility in Auburn Hills, Griffin reflected.
“I really do feel a sense of pride of this group, for just the journey that we were on together,” Griffin said. “Wins and losses ultimately tell one story, but I think that the way the season played out and how we handled certain things and how we kind of grew as a team, was special to me.”
Here are a few things to watch with the Pistons going forward:
Griffin’s knee problems toward the end were a reminder that the Pistons are relying on a star with a troublesome injury history. He did play more games in the regular season than he had since 2013-14.
Griffin did not seem to think his knee issues would be a long-term problem.
“I don’t think it’ll interfere with any offseason workout plans that I have,” Griffin said.
Point guard Reggie Jackson has dealt with injury issues in his career as well, but he managed to play all 82 regular-season games for the first time. He had his ups and downs from a performance standpoint, but ultimately shot a career-best 37 percent from 3-point range.
ON THE BOARDS
Andre Drummond averaged a career-high 17.3 points and an NBA-best 15.6 rebounds. He’s third on the team’s career list in rebounds, trailing only Bill Laimbeer and Bob Lanier.
ON THE RISE?
Kennard, a first-round draft pick in 2017, increased his scoring average from 7.6 as a rookie to 9.7 this season. He’s a 40-percent shooter from beyond the arc in his career, and his development could be crucial for the Pistons after Griffin led the team in 3-pointers in 2018-19.
The Pistons didn’t have a first-round pick last year, but second-rounder Bruce Brown made 56 starts as a rookie. Detroit has the 15th pick this year.