On Big Ben's night, Pistons clock Warriors
Auburn Hills — Most of the sellout crowd at The Palace came to see Ben Wallace’s No. 3 retirement ceremony at halftime.
As it turned out, they got a lot more than that.
The Pistons played one of their best games of the season, getting a marquee win over the defending champions and sending the raucous crowd — reminiscent of Wallace’s days with the championship “Goin’ to Work” days a decade ago — home happy.
With critical surges to start the second and fourth quarters, the Pistons stifled the Golden State Warriors, 113-95, on Saturday night. It was just the fourth loss — and most lopsided — of the season for the Warriors.
“We know that we’re capable of beating anybody,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “The trick is the difference between the Golden States, San Antonios and Clevelands of the world and where we are right now is you have to do it night after night after night after night.
“That’s our challenge — to try to find that on a more consistent basis. I don’t know that we can play this well all the time, but we’ve got to play close to it and we’ve got to play with that kind of energy and intensity.”
The Pistons (22-18) have wins over the top team in each conference, but are looking to put together similar performances against some of the lower teams as well.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter and Andre Drummond added 14 points and 21 rebounds for the Pistons, who ended their two-game slide and eight-game losing streak to the Warriors.
But with Wallace as the guest of honor — along with coach Larry Brown, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 championship team in the front row — the Pistons didn’t disappoint.
They built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but the Warriors rallied, behind Stephen Curry, who had 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He went 7-of-15 on 3-pointers and had nine points during a first-quarter spurt that erased the 10-point lead and put the Warriors ahead, 30-27, after the first quarter.
But the Pistons reserves had a critical 17-3 spurt to start the second quarter, spearheaded by Aron Baynes, who went 6-for-6 from the field in the game and made all five of his shots in the run.
Klay Thompson (24 points) ended the streak with a three-point play, but Marcus Morris (16 points, eight rebounds, six assists) scored the Pistons’ next five points to push the lead back to 11.
Caldwell-Pope also scored five straight Pistons point during a stretch and showed that he was going to try to make Curry work on defense too.
“We wanted to make them play on both ends,” Caldwell-Pope said. “It was a key point and we didn’t do that the first game we played at Golden State.”
The Pistons finished the half on a 9-2 run, with four points by Morris. They doubled up on the Warriors with a 38-19 second period, leading to a 65-49 lead, tying their season high for scoring in a first half.
Curry had 16 points in the third quarter to try to keep the Warriors (37-4) close, but the Pistons didn’t relent, leading 85-74, entering the final period.
“The third quarter, we weren’t great, but the rest of the game, we played really hard and really well,” Van Gundy said. “Not much to complain about tonight.”
The Pistons had another 9-0 run to start the fourth period — with back-to-back triples by Morris and Stanley Johnson and an alley-oop from Morris to Drummond. After a technical foul on Warriors coach Luke Walton, Johnson made the free throw to push the lead to 20.
The Warriors went more than seven minutes without a field goal — and just three free throws — as the Pistons put the game away, taking their largest lead on a 3-pointer by Steve Blake and a basket by Reggie Jackson (20 points, eight assists).
“There’s no reason we can’t do this every night,” said Johnson, who had eight points. “We’re working towards this, to do this every night. It’s our job as professionals to do that so now we’ve set the bar for ourselves.
“We can’t go back; we have to keep going.”
The Warriors have lost two of their last three and are used to taking each opponent’s best shot on a given night. It was no different for the Pistons on Saturday night.
“No matter where we go, teams are going to give us their best shot,” Walton said. “They were coming after us and we weren’t ready to fight back and in this league, if you’re not ready to fight back, you’re going to get blown out — and that’s what happened to us.”