Balanced attack against 76ers gets Pistons back to .500

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — It was the type of performance the Pistons desperately needed.

After slipping below .500 and out of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, the Pistons built off Monday’s win over the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers with a balanced scoring attack and another victory.

Tobias Harris recorded 22 points and eight rebounds in his first home start as the Pistons pummeled the league-worst Philadelphia 76ers, 111-91, in front of a sparse crowd Wednesday at The Palace.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 111, 76ers 91

Reggie Jackson scored 17 and Reggie Bullock set a career-high with 16 points off the bench for the Pistons (29-29), who handed the 76ers their sixth straight loss. Marcus Morris had 13 points and a career-high eight assists, Andre Drummond added 12 points and 18 rebounds and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11.

Bullock entered Wednesday’s game averaging 0.3 points and 4.8 minutes in 19 appearances, but took full advantage of the season-high 26 minutes he saw as the first player off the bench with key reserves Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver sidelined by injuries.

“It was great to see the ball go in for (Bullock). I think our guys, if you go through everything they liked tonight, that would probably be at the top of their list,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They’re really happy for him and they know how much work he puts in every day to stay ready.”

The Pistons wasted little time taking care of business — unlike their previous two encounters with the 76ers — by grabbing a double-digit lead in the first quarter that swelled to 65-42 by halftime.

Things only got worse for the 76ers (8-49) in the second half as two Jackson free throws and four straight points from Harris gave the Pistons their largest lead, 76-46, with 5:30 left in the third.

The 76ers were able to cut it to 105-85 with 3 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, but that was well after the Pistons emptied their bench and had secured their second straight win.

“Our offense in the second half a sloppy mess, but our defense was pretty good for 42 minutes,” Van Gundy said. “I thought our offense was good in the first half and I think even in the second half we were trying to be unselfish, but we were just really sloppy.

“The last couple games have been encouraging (defensively) but it can’t be an up-and-down thing now. We got 24 to go and they all have to be good.”

The frontcourt combo of Drummond and Harris did much of the heavy lifting early for the Pistons. After they took an 11-5 lead in the first quarter, Drummond and Harris combined to score the next 17 points to open a 28-15 cushion.

“I feel like the chemistry is coming together. As a team and a unit, we got to take it one game at a time and be able to build consistency,” said Harris, who finished 9-for-12 from the field. “Tonight was a good game after coming off a good win versus the Cavs. For us here in the locker room, it was we got to come out here, respond and play the same way.

“I just think as a team, we’re playing team basketball and we’re all looking for each other. We’re really playing unselfishly and that’s the name of the game.”

Drummond hit two free throws and a hook shot and Harris made a 3-pointer to give the Pistons their first double-digit advantage, 18-8, at the 5:37 mark.

Drummond then scored on a pair of tip-ins and Harris had a dunk, a fast-break layup and two free throws before Bullock’s three-point play put the Pistons up 31-15 with 1:23 left in the first.

“(Harris) is doing all the things we need him to do,” Drummond said. “When he first came here I told him don’t hesitate, we’re not here to play slow. We want you to run and we want to try to score the ball when you touch it. If you don’t have anything, feed somebody else. He came in and looks great.”

Harris added a layup before Robert Covington connected on a 51-footer as time expired to make it 33-20.

The 76ers cut the Pistons lead to 33-24 less than a minute into the second quarter as Kendall Marshall (12 points) scored on a layup and Jerami Grant followed with two free throws to cap a 7-0 run.

The Pistons quickly regained control and used an 11-0 spurt on back-to-back 3-pointers by Bullock, a Caldwell-Pope free throw, Harris layup and two free throws from Jackson for a 53-30 lead with 4:19 remaining.

Jackson scored seven points in the final 1:32 to put the Pistons up comfortably, 65-42, at halftime.

“We dug ourselves a hole right from the beginning,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “I thought in the second half, we played respectable defense but they ended up having 46 points in the second half. We just started poorly and we had to play catch-up and it was just a poor hole to get out of.”