Jackson scores 24 as Pistons reel in Celtics

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Boston — A few weeks ago, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had a conversation with his brother Jeff — an analyst and former coach — about all wins not being equal.

The Pistons were in one of their best stretches of the season, having won nine of 12 games in early December.

“He said, ‘A mature team can learn even while they’re winning — they don’t have to wait to lose to learn,’ ” Van Gundy recalled.

The Pistons have had inconsistent performances during many of their wins, procrastinating until the fourth quarter before eking out a win.

Add another to the list.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 99, Celtics 94

The Pistons played poorly for three quarters, but turned it on in the final period, overwhelming the Boston Celtics, 99-94, in an improbable, come-from-behind win on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

With the win, the Pistons (20-16) ended their three-game road skid and leapfrogged the Celtics into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Van Gundy will take the win, but he knows — like most procrastination — that it’s not something they can continue to get away with.

“The problem is that we’ve done this so many times that we’re starting to fall into (the notion that) we don’t need to play until the fourth quarter,” Van Gundy said. “That can be dangerous because these games can start to turn on you.

“Tonight, we didn’t really play until the fourth quarter and that was a little disturbing, but in the fourth quarter, we were really, really good, made plays down the stretch, defended well. The resiliency part of it is great.”

Reggie Jackson scored nine of his 24 points in the final six minutes and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 15 of his 20 points in the first half. Rookie Stanley Johnson notched his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Pistons overcame a 75-66 deficit at the end of the third quarter, getting the scores and defensive stops they needed to pull out the win.

Caldwell-Pope hit a jumper and Brandon Jennings (six points) followed with a 3-pointer, to get the lead under seven for the first time since early in the third period. The run reached 9-2 when a pair of free throws by Johnson and a hook by Andre Drummond cut the lead to 77-75.

Following a jumper by Jae Crowder (16 points), Morris scored on a drive and Drummond hit a lay-in to tie it.

But just as the Pistons got it going, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas started to turn it on as well. Thomas split a pair of free throws and the Pistons took their first lead of the game on a floater by Jackson. That ignited a 7-0 spurt, with a 3-pointer by Anthony Tolliver and another basket by Jackson, for an 88-82 lead with 4:07 remaining.

Thomas (22 points) scored the Celtics’ final 15 points — including seven straight, to give them a brief lead at 89-88 — but Jackson countered with a 3-pointer and two more free throws and the Pistons kept the lead for good.

Clinging to a 93-92 lead, Johnson gave the Pistons some breathing room, hitting a 3-pointer from the right corner with 58.2 seconds left.

“I made a mistake (on the possession) before that, so I wasn’t going to make the same mistake — that would be insanity,” Johnson said. “If I didn’t take that shot, I think my teammates would have killed me. When I got the charge (on the previous possession), they were all not happy that I didn’t shoot it again. It was almost no choice.”

Van Gundy sees the young rookie is making some critical shots, and although he readily admits Johnson has plenty of room for improvement, he’s on a good track right now.

“The one thing is the guy’s scared of nothing — no situation; he’s not going to get nervous in it,” Van Gundy said of Johnson. “He’s got great confidence that he can go out and compete with the best players in the world. No hesitation on that shot.”

Drummond finished with 13 points and five boards — his lowest rebounding total since March 14 of last season — and sat the final 6:13 after twisting his left knee on an intentional foul by Amir Johnson.

Backup center Aron Baynes played well off the bench, as Van Gundy didn’t want to risk having the Celtics intentionally foul Drummond to give him the free-throw attempts.

“I wasn’t going to mess around. We weren’t even in the penalty and they were going to foul before the ball came inbounds,” Van Gundy said. “I put Aron in and rather than try to go back and forth, I made up my mind that I’m going to finish it with Aron and let our guys play and not have to play through free throws and get in the rhythm of the game.”

The Pistons trailed the entire first half but closed within one in the second quarter. Caldwell-Pope hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions, spurring an 11-5 spurt and cutting the lead to 46-47 with 3:32 left in the half.

Ersan Ilyasova was fouled but missed both free throws and a chance at the lead. The Celtics got back-to-back baskets from Amir Johnson (16 points, 11 rebounds) and a free throw from Thomas to push the lead back to six.

The Celtics led, 55-48, at halftime, but their offense didn't continue into the final two quarters.

“You have to maintain good play for 48 minutes to win a game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “(The Pistons) have done this a lot this year. Detroit has come back from a lot of games where they’ve been down.”

And they got another one.