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Drummond’s free-throw woes put Van Gundy in bind

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Andre Drummond

Atlanta — After the Pistons got a rebound, they could barely outlet the ball to point guard Reggie Jackson before everything stopped.

A whistle halted the play.

Andre Drummond was fouled intentionally and was going to the free-throw line.

Hack-a-Dre. Beat-a-Drum. Hack-a-Tall-Person.

Call it what you want, but it’s becoming a more viable option for teams to slow down the Pistons and short circuit their offense.

The Hawks employed the tactic midway through the first quarter in Wednesday night’s victory at Philips Arena — and the Pistons struggled to get into any offensive rhythm because of it.

“It worked,” Drummond said. “They won the game.

“I just have to make free throws. It is what it is. Every team is different and has different strategies on how to slow people up. That’s the tactic they took and it worked for them tonight.”

Drummond tied his career high with 18 free-throw attempts — making seven. But more than the numbers, slowing the pace and trying to force the Pistons’ hand to take Drummond out of the game was Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s aim.

“Coaches are all different and you never know how the opposing coach or team is going to react,” Budenholzer said. “(The Pistons) stick with him a lot. They chose to take him out (Wednesday), which is not what they always do. I think we are just trying to do everything we can to put together a game, play well, take advantage of everything that is at our disposal.”

Some fans might complain it’s a cheap strategy and the game becomes unwatchable with bad shooters taking so many free throws. But the other side of it is that it helped the Hawks win and Drummond should just learn to make more free throws more consistently.

“As a player, make your free throws, man,” Hawks forward Paul Millsap said. “It’s as simple as that. It’s a great strategy, especially if the guy isn’t making his free throws.”

If the results continue, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy could be forced to take Drummond off the floor in crucial situations rather than give up the scoring opportunity for a poor shooter.

“I haven’t been in a dilemma yet,” Van Gundy said. “He’s going to have to shoot the ball better at the line if he wants to stay in the game. He can’t continue to shoot below 50 percent — he just can’t.

“He’s capable of shooting better; he’s got to put his mind to it, he’s got to do the things he’s supposed to do and he’s got to shoot them better; otherwise, there are going to be a lot of instances where we have to take him out of the game.”

Although Drummond had a couple trips to the line in which he made both free throws, the numbers point to teams using more intentional fouls, assuming he’ll make one of the two free throws on most trips.

But even if Drummond — he’s shooting 38 percent — makes one or two per trip, the tactic also serves to interrupt the Pistons’ offensive rhythm.

“A lot of things happen when those fouls are going on,” Hawks forward Kyle Korver said. “If they’re not making their free throws, obviously (we’re) getting a stop. But you’re also just taking them out of sync and out of rhythm.”

For Drummond, it’s a continuing frustration, especially given the work he put in during the summer with shooting coach Dave Hopla.

“Nobody’s going to see the work I put in because nobody’s with me 24/7,” Drummond said. “They just see what happens on the floor. I’m going to continue to do what I do, work on my shot each day after practice, come in at night taking shots — and it’s going to fall for me eventually.”