Auburn Hills — The Pistons tendency to play down to their competition has led to several head-shaking losses throughout the season.
And after an abysmal first quarter where the Pistons were held to a season-low 12 points against the Philadelphia 76ers — the bottom-feeders of the Eastern Conference — it appeared that same flaw was going to cost them again.
But behind Reggie Jackson and a 36-point fourth-quarter outburst, the Pistons recovered to knock off the 76ers, 110-97, Wednesday at The Palace for their second straight win.
Jackson finished with 27 points, including 10 in the fourth, and Andre Drummond recorded his 37th double-double with 25 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Pistons (25-21). Stanley Johnson added 18 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 14, Aron Baynes 12 and Marcus Morris 10.
Trailing 79-74 entering the fourth, the Pistons’ bench ignited a 14-9 run with back-to-back baskets by Baynes and a trio of close-range shots from Johnson to tie it at 88 with 6:48 left in the game.
From that point on, the starters took over as Jackson drained a 3-pointer to give the Pistons a 91-88 lead less than 30 seconds later.
Nerlens Noel (20 points) answered right back with an alley-oop layup to cut it to one, but that’s as close as the 76ers would get. Jackson, Caldwell-Pope and Drummond each hit a pair of free throws and Drummond added a tip-in to make it 99-92 with 2:36 left.
It didn’t take long for Jackson put the game out of reach, scoring on a driving layup and nailing another 3-pointer to give the Pistons a 104-94 advantage with 1:32 remaining.
Morris split a pair of free throws and Johnson and Caldwell-Pope each added a layup to cap the Pistons’ 22-9 run to close the game.
“That’s what we have to do,” Johnson said of the fourth-quarter run. “We have to figure out how to win games in a row and we don’t need to be in these positions to do that every time, but we need to have that in our back pocket.
“The resiliency to keep playing through games and not worry about the score, just worry about doing things right and when that happens things take care of themselves.”
After giving up 34 points in the third quarter, the Pistons’ defense stiffened in the fourth, limiting the 76ers to 18 points.
“We just really wanted to find a way to win,” Jackson said. “It didn’t matter how ugly it was, we knew we were going to have to get stops … and come down and try to find a good shot. If we did so we felt like at the end of the game we would be where we wanted to be.”
The Pistons’ fourth quarter was a far cry from their terrible start. After Jackson opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, the Pistons went cold, missing their next seven shots to fall behind 10-4 with 7:07 left in the first quarter.
The Pistons went nearly five minutes without making a basket until Jackson’s jumper cut the deficit to 14-8 at the 5:35 mark.
But the Pistons’ struggles, particularly defending in the paint, continued as the 76ers closed out the quarter with back-to-back layups by Richaun Holmes to take a 20-12 at the end of the first.
Much like the final quarter, the Pistons’ bench provided a spark in second as Baynes rattled off six straight points on a bank shot and four free throws to cut it to 25-20 at the 7:45 mark.
Less than two minutes later, Baynes capped a 5-0 spurt with an elbow jumper to trim it to 28-25.
But the 76ers (7-40) responded with an 8-1 run to take its largest lead of the game, 36-26, with 4:20 left in first half. Robert Covington led the surge, hitting three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point shot by Marcus Morris and draining a corner 3-pointer.
The Pistons finished the first half strong, closing out the second on a 16-9 run. Jackson spearheaded the rally with eight points, including the final six points on three free throws and a 3-pointer off the glass as time expired to make it a one-point deficit at halftime.
The teams exchanged blows throughout much of the third quarter until the 76ers went on a 10-2 run behind a three-point play by Jerami Grant (21 points), a Hollis Thompson (12 points) 3-pointer and Isaiah Canaan’s four-point play to take a 77-71 lead with 1:42 remaining before the Pistons staged their furious fourth-quarter comeback.
“We’ve played a lot of good fourth quarters this year,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That’s not usually our problem. I wasn’t real surprised with that. I thought we played, other than the third quarter, I thought our defense was pretty good. …And I thought other than the first quarter, our offense was pretty good.
“I thought we played three quarters of a game on each end of the court.”