The Grand Rapids Drive welcomed Detroit Pistons’ assignees Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije to the team, but lost its’ fourth straight game, 107-96, to the Delaware 87ers on Saturday night at the DeltaPlex Arena.
The Delaware 87ers, lovingly known as the Sevens (5-5), had four players score at least 15 points against a Drive (4-7) team which it also beat last Sunday here in Beer City, USA.
Johnson, Detroit’s 2015 #1 pick (8th overall), made his début in the NBA D-League with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Seeing Johnson make the trip to Grand Rapids is a hopeful sign of things to come as the Pistons continue to use their D-League affiliate in a more attractive way to fans and productive way to the organization. Rather than just searching of a “diamond in the rough”, they’ve expanded their brand with the Drive and may have started a new trend of “2-way” players in the NBA/NBADL. Meaning, we’re also seeing a lot of this past year’s draft picks Ellenson and Gbinije. They’re getting to know I-96 between Grand Rapids and Detroit just as well as some of the Griffins/RedWings players, which is a positive for fans of the Pistons, knowing what the hockey organization has done over the last 15 years. Ellenson finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Gbinije scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists.
The Drive got out to a 28-20 lead after the first quarter behind the newcomers including some ferocious dunks by Johnson in the first few minutes of the game. Grand Rapids even took a double-digit lead to open the second quarter but soon found out the Sevens were here to continue their dominance over the home club. Delaware scored 35 points in the second quarter and had cut the lead to four at the half, even though Grand Rapids had scored 59 points.
Once again, though, the Drive had trouble finding their way in the third quarter. They haven’t scored over 19 points in a third quarter in their last three games with a season-low of 14. Saturday, they only scored 15. It may have had something to do with the three assignees being in town. The Drive’s leading scorer, Kevin Murphy, came off the bench, played only 21 minutes and scored 5 points on 1-of-5 shooting after averaging 26.4 per game so far this year. His inactivity may be one of the detriments to bringing the NBA players to GR so sporadically. Seeing how Murphy reacts next game will be interesting to watch.
Delaware held on in the fourth quarter amid a dismal night at the free throw line (19-of-33), but surprisingly outrebounded the Drive 48-33 and controlled the lane despite the presence of NBA talent.
Coach Rex Walters and the team will look to end their 4-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they host the Windy City Bulls at 7 p.m.