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Jackson, Caldwell-Pope attack Raptors, Pistons win

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Detroit — The good word comes down on an almost daily basis.

It is a simple message from Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy to his guards Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Attack! Attack! Attack!

Push the ball up the floor. Attack the rim and be as aggressive as possible.

Mission accomplished again. The Pistons (27-44) won their third straight game against a team playing for something, playoffs-wise. The victim Tuesday night was the Toronto Raptors, who nearly pulled it off after erasing an 18-point lead but again fell, 108-104, to the hot Pistons.

The only clunker during this stretch was a loss to Philadelphia, which is not playing for anything.

Caldwell-Pope (26 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Jackson (28 points and nine assists) combined for 54 points. That is because they attacked.

"He (Van Gundy) is making it easy," Jackson said. "He is always saying attack and always be in attack mode. He said be aggressive and look for shots and the game will play out how it should be played. If the pass (is open) I will make the pass. I will also attack and look for my teammates, as well."

It was one of those knockdown cage matches that went down to the wire. Both teams exchanged huge baskets down the stretch before the Pistons settled things at the end. DeMar DeRozan thrilled a mostly Raptors crowd with 22 points and 10 rebounds and made huge baskets down the stretch along with Lou Williams, who finished with 19 points. Patrick Patterson pushed in a putback and was fouled to give the Raptors their final lead, 102-101 with 1:51 remaining.

It was a huge game for the Raptors, who fell a half-game behind the Chicago Bulls for the third playoff spot. The Pistons are still 4-1/2 games behind Boston in the fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Free throws by Jodie Meeks and Jackson along with a Tayshaun Prince jump hook gave the Pistons a four point lead and kept hope alive.

"They got us every which way," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "It wasn't a lack of effort. It was a lack of focus. Lack of intelligence and we've got to be better."

Van Gundy was impressed by the gaudy numbers his team put up. The Pistons have scored 100 or more points in four of five games since Greg Monroe was sidelined with a right knee injury. But it was a small number that impressed him the most.

Zero turnovers for aggressive Caldwell-Pope and Jackson.

"Reggie in particular I thought was outstanding," Van Gundy said. "As his assists have gone up his turnovers have gone down. As you look at his numbers the last five games he is having a hell of a run. Pretty good basketball."

Jackson has averaged 20.1 points and 12.2 assist the last five games and Caldwell-Pope 22.4 points and 4.6 rebounds.

"I was just trying to find some seams and attack," Jackson said. "Earlier in the game everybody was hot from the 3-point line so I don't think their wings wanted to leave our guys open."

There was a scare early in the fourth quarter when Caldwell-Pope was hit while running through an illegal screen. He lay on the ground as the Palace crowd became quiet. He sat on the bench for about eight minutes before returning.

The Pistons have struggled of late from the 3-point arc but made 41.4 percent Tuesday. The key has been better spacing and hitting open shots. That allowed Drummond (21 points, 18 rebounds) more freedom inside.

"We never give up when things got difficult," Jackson said. "We could've easily gave up and allowed them to take the lead and win the game but we continued to fight."