Auburn Hills — In the midst of a playoff chase and a nine-game home stand, the Pistons could ill-afford to come out on the second night of a back-to-back without energy and a sense of urgency despite playing a depleted Brooklyn squad.
The Pistons caught a break just before tip-off as the Nets announced starting center Brook Lopez (20.6 points per game) would miss the game due to illness.
It was a struggle at times during the first three quarters, but the Pistons put together a big fourth quarter behind a balanced offensive effort and an inspired performance from the bench to down Brooklyn, 115-103, Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Seven Pistons scored in double figures and the bench led a fourth quarter charge where the lead ballooned to 17 after heading into the final frame tied, 77-77.
Good ball movement led to some easy buckets at the basket for Aron Baynes. Mixed in with a couple of Anthony Tolliver 3-pointers, the Pistons started the quarter on a 13-3 run and never looked back.
“I thought all of those guys were really good,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That group changed the tone of the game and started competing."
Baynes led the team in scoring with a career-high 21 points, while benchmates Tolliver (17 points) and Stanley Johnson (10 points, six assists) helped fuel the team late.
“They played phenomenal,” Reggie Jackson said. “We were prepared to do it ourselves, but the second unit kept playing well, pushing the lead. You never know where you’re going to get it from each and every night.”
Other Pistons in double figures were Andre Drummond with 16 points, Jackson with 14 and Tobias Harris 13. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 and tied a career-high with eight assists.
“It was just great ball being played,” Caldwell-Pope said of the fourth quarter. “We were just having fun; everybody was touching the ball and getting open shots.”
That kind of fourth quarter performance will help mask the up and down nature of the first three frames.
The Pistons led for all but a minute in the first half and took a 54-52 lead into the break. After building a seven-point lead out of locker rooms, it appeared they were ready to take control.
The Nets had other plans, going on a 13-0 run in the third quarter to build a six-point lead before Tolliver helped stall that run with two big 3-pointers.
“I don’t think our starters played very hard defensively,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll be happy with it and move on, but we hope at some point that we can get some guys to start playing some defense.
“It felt really good to get hot,” Tolliver said. “Sometimes it’s tough to play spot minutes at a high level, but my number was called and I was able to perform.”
Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic led the charge for Brooklyn. Young scored 12 points in the third and finished with 24, while Bogdanovic scored 19.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair as the Pistons showed great energy out of the gate and shot 56 percent in the first quarter. That number dipped in the second quarter to 39 percent.
Emotions boiled over late in the second quarter as the Nets took their first lead of the game at 52-51. Jackson thought he was fouled on a jump shot that led to an easy layup on the other end for Shane Larkin. Jackson was given a technical and was being held back by teammates as it looked like he was going to try and get in the referee’s face. Jackson pushed away Reggie Bullock before Van Gundy intervened and was shoved away by his heated point guard.
Steve Blake came off the bench to finish off the final minute and change of the half. Johnson hit a late 3-pointer to give the Pistons their lead back before the break.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.