LOS ANGELES — Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin made his first appearance at Staples Center as an opponent Wednesday night after playing nearly eight seasons as a member of the LA Clippers.
Griffin’s return was dampened by the Pistons’ 113-100 defeat to the Lakers, Detroit’s eighth loss in 10 games. After the game, Griffin downplayed the importance of his homecoming to Los Angeles.
“I’ve played here as a visitor to the Lakers several times, so I didn’t feel much different other than being in this locker room,” Griffin said.
Saturday afternoon’s matchup against the Clippers is certain to offer more symbolism and drama for Griffin, who was drafted first overall in 2009 by the Clippers. After missing the entirety of his first season to injury, he stormed onto the scene in 2010, winning Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote and was selected to the All-Star Game five times as a Clipper.
In Wednesday night’s loss, Griffin’s January streak of consecutive 20-point games ended at four. He finished with 16 points (6-for-14 from the field, including 2-for-8 from 3-point range), along with six assists, but failed to collect a rebound for the first time in his nine NBA seasons.
“It’s always tough playing Blake Griffin, especially for me,” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said. “He is a lot stronger than me. Credit a lot of my teammates for helping me out a lot defensively. We followed our game plan and held him to maybe, I think he had 16. That is way less than his average.”
Detroit simply couldn’t overcome its poor shooting through much of the game, shooting only 37.5 percent from the field in the first half.
“We didn’t really get to, or do anything we wanted to,” Griffin said. “You never want to come in and have a performance like that, especially when you need wins.”
Detroit entered the game as the league’s 13th ranked defense, but the Pistons were bludgeoned by the Lakers, who compiled a healthy effective field goal percentage of 61. Kuzma, Griffin’s primary assignment, scored a game-high 41 points.
“All the things they’re good at, we didn’t take it away,” Griffin said. “I think it was our energy.”
During his nearly eight seasons as a member of the Clippers, Griffin had never set foot into the visitors locker room at Staples Center.
“This was my first time,” Griffin said prior to the game of the notoriously cramped accommodations for the away team. “It’s awful.”