Oklahoma City — In his first game against his former team, Pistons guard Reggie Jackson was getting most of the pregame attention. Following last season's midseason trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jackson found his footing in a starting role with the Pistons.
But it’s never easy to steal the spotlight from Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
The former MVP scored 15 of his 34 points in the first quarter and added 13 rebounds, helping the Thunder take a dominant 103-87 victory over the Pistons on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Playing against the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2011, Jackson scored 15 points but played only six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He finished 4-of-16 from the field with five rebounds and four assists.
Marcus Morris led the Pistons (8-8) with 17 points and Andre Drummond added 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Thunder dominated the boards, winning the rebounding margin with a surprising 58-38 advantage.
“We’re minus-20 on the glass. I didn’t think anybody on our team rebounded the ball at all,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I’ve never seen Andre that poor on the boards; he didn’t block anybody out. Not only did he not get any rebounds; his guy dominated us on the glass.”
Drummond, who leads the league in rebounding, was outdueled by Stephen Adams, who also had 13 boards, including four on the offensive end. Drummond managed only six points and four rebounds in the second half.
But the final 24 minutes were the Pistons’ undoing, as they shot 24 percent (11-of-46) after taking a 55-48 lead at halftime.
“I just couldn’t get the shots to go in — I don’t think any of us could,” Jackson said. “I really felt like there was some voodoo on the ball or something. Just a lot of shots hit the back rim and were coming out.
“I felt good — I didn’t feel like I was trying to press it or being tentative, just like I had been playing all season.”
Van Gundy had a different take on the shot selection.
“Terrible,” he said. “We fell back into everybody wanting to go one-on-one.”
The Thunder raced to an 8-0 lead in the first 2:15 of the game, but the Pistons settled in. Jackson had a three-point play and a banked-in 3-pointer to cut it to 15-12 but picked up his second foul at the 6:39 mark and went to the bench.
The Pistons had a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Steve Blake (five points, seven assists, three steals) and they had a 31-29 lead after the first quarter. The Pistons had their biggest lead, 53-40, with 3:06 left in the first half, after a pair of free throws by Morris. But the Thunder finished the quarter with the last six points, cutting the lead to 55-48 at halftime.
The Thunder picked up where they left off in the third quarter, scoring six straight after an alley-oop to Drummond, and cut the deficit to 57-54. They got closer when Durant scored back-to-back baskets — both 3-pointers — but Ersan Ilyasova and Morris countered with 3-pointers to keep the lead at two.
But keeping Drummond off the glass and playing tough inside defense proved to be the difference for the Thunder, with Adams and Serge Ibaka (14 points and four blocks) patrolling the middle.
“We all played together on both ends of the floor,” Durant said. “We were rebounding the ball and they are a top-two rebounding team in the league with us and we dominated them on the glass because everyone chipped in.”
Russell Westbrook had 14 points and four rebounds, but was hounded by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope the whole game. Westbrook started 0-of-6 from the field and finished with 11 turnovers before fouling out.
The Thunder moved ahead, 66-65, after a drive by Durant and a basket by Dion Waiters with 4:06 remaining in the period. The lead flip-flopped five times in the next two minutes before the Thunder took control, with a hook and two free throws by Durant and two free throws by Enes Kanter (14 points) for a 76-71 lead entering the fourth.
“I’m sure we had some defensive breakdowns but (Durant) is a hell of a player,” Van Gundy said. “He can get shots off and over the top of anybody at any time. We’re talking one of the top two or three players in the world. He’s pretty good.”