Pistons’ Tolliver rediscovers long-range touch

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The shots were just falling for Anthony Tolliver on Thursday.

Just like practice.

Tolliver had a season-high five 3-pointers for a season-best 15 points in the 115-90 blowout victory over the Timberwolves. And after one in the fourth quarter, he had a muted fist pump, energizing himself and The Palace crowd.

He completed a stellar December, where he shot 41 percent from 3-point range, up 10 percent from November. A 3-point specialist, Tolliver has become an integral part of the bench.

“He’s starting to get (his shot) back,” coach Stan Van Gundy said Friday. “When he’s doing that on top of his defense, he’s a very valuable guy.”

As Tolliver struggled to find his shot early, the bench production was spotty as well. But, Tolliver didn’t let the early swoon get him down. He continued to work in practice — where he typically tries to make 200-300 3-pointers per day — to hone his craft.

Even with a breakout game, Tolliver knows his fortunes and production can switch just as quickly.

“I don’t even put too much thought into my last game or the games before,” he said. “Every game, I approach it the same way and try to be productive in the opportunities I get. If the ball goes in, great, but if it doesn’t, I have to do other things to help my team win.”

Bench provides boost as Pistons beat Timberwolves

Tolliver was the catalyst for the Pistons on Thursday, registering a plus-minus rating of 26, a testament to his effectiveness on both ends of the court. When he’s hitting his shot, Tolliver has become one of the team’s best two-way players.

“(Defense) is one of his strengths,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a good defender both individually and as a team defender. The numbers bear that out when you look at the lineups; lineups with him defend pretty well.”

Van Gundy admits Tolliver is somewhat limited in the offense because he doesn’t create his own shot off the dribble often. But when his shot is falling, he’s much more effective at hitting 3-pointers instead of settling inside the arc.

That’s made the reserve unit — which is transitioning from Steve Blake to Brandon Jennings as the point guard — more effective.

Contract talk

Van Gundy said the Pistons haven’t discussed any particulars, but all signs point to them picking up forward ErsanIlyasova’s $8.4 million team option for 2016-17.

“That’s what we anticipate right now,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t really talked about it but that certainly would be my thing. He’s a very good player on a very good contract. I don’t really foresee a scenario where we wouldn’t (pick up the option).”

Ilyasova has been a nice find for Van Gundy, posting 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in a starting role. He leads the team at 38 percent on 3-pointers.

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Pistons at Pacers

Tip-off: 7 p.m. Saturday, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: The Pacers have lost two in a row and five of their last seven.