Jackson's hot hand propels Pistons past Trail Blazers
Auburn Hills — This time, there was no need for a late comeback. Reggie Jackson didn’t have to have an explosive fourth quarter and the Pistons didn’t have to overcome a double-digit deficit in the final minutes.
In the first meeting at Portland in November, the Pistons needed a career-high 40 points from Jackson, including 26 in the fourth quarter, to complete the comeback.
In Sunday’s matchup at The Palace, the Pistons jetted out to a 14-point first-quarter advantage and never trailed, cruising to a 123-103 victory. The win ends the Pistons’ two-game losing streak and puts them back above .500.
Jackson had another stellar game, with 30 points and nine assists — his seventh game of 30 or more points this season. Marcus Morris added 19 points, and Tobias Harris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each scored 16 for the Pistons (32-31).
Jackson had struggled in his last two games, totaling 19 points on 7-of-30 shooting, but got back into an early groove, with 11 points in the first period.
“He played great tonight, one of his better games — he scored and had nine assists,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It was a great bounce back from last night.
“It’s such a small sample size, but he did play well against (the Blazers) both games.”
In the third quarter, Jackson built on his strong 15-point first half, with a driving lay-in that keyed an opening 9-0 run, boosting a 58-51 halftime lead to 16 points. The Blazers (33-31) answered with a 10-2 spurt, including a 3-pointer by Al-Farouq Aminu (16 points), a jumper from C.J. McCollum (22 points) and a three-point play by Meyers Leonard.
Between McCollum and Damian Lillard (26 points), the Pistons backcourt had their hands full defensively, including the second quarter, when they combined for 24 points.
“With them, you don’t get much of a break,” Van Gundy said. “You’re guarding a 25-point-a-game guy or a 20-point-a-game guy. It’s not like you can run and hide.”
Portland trimmed the deficit to 85-75 entering the fourth quarter but the Pistons put it away, following a 7-2 opening spurt, with a jumper and triple by Morris and a jumper by Steve Blake.
The Blazers added a triple from McCollum and a jumper by Aminu to get within 92-82, but Blake answered with a 3-pointer. The Blazers never got within 10 points the rest of the way, as the Pistons had a response each time.
Lillard scored 11 straight Blazers points down the stretch, but they couldn’t add a complementary scorer. After a Lillard triple, Andre Drummond (14 points, 18 rebounds) had a putback dunk after being fouled, pushing the lead back to 12.
Drummond had another lay-in off a nice feed from Jackson and Harris followed with a triple. Drummond converted a lob feed from Harris and jammed it home for a 106-91 advantage, but Lillard answered with a floater.
The Pistons put the game away with a 3-pointer from Reggie Bullock (11 points, five rebounds) and a floater by Jackson, which sparked a 10-2 run.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious — (Jackson) scored the ball; he got people involved,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “He didn’t have the night he had last time, so that’s a positive.”
Caldwell-Pope finished the run with a triple, pushing the margin to 116-95.
In the first quarter, the Pistons had a hot start, hitting 50 percent and jumping to a 30-16 lead. Jackson hit 3 of 5 field goals and added five free throws. Harris chipped in nine points, on 4-of-5 shooting.
“It started with our defense and that generated our offense and allowed us to get in transition and made it tough to guard us,” Jackson said. “We came out and held them to (16 points) in the first quarter. From there, we just wanted to bog down and get stops but of course, they’re a tough team.”
From an 18-13 lead after an Aminu 3-pointer, the Pistons pushed forward with a bank and tip-in by Caldwell-Pope, two free throws from Jackson and a triple by Harris.
While the Pistons struggled Saturday against the Knicks to spread the ball around, they got a similar poor defensive performance in the second quarter, allowing the Blazers to shoot 68 percent (13-of-19), including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and trim the lead in half, 58-51.
“From the jump, our energy was there. It was a 30-point first quarter for us and the ball was moving a lot,” Harris said. “Defensively, we were all in tune and in the right spots and stuck to the game plan that coach gave us.”