Pistons will take ugly win over short-handed Thunder
Auburn Hills — The Pistons aren’t expecting any extra points for style or execution.
In the midst of a playoff race, they’ll make no apologies for an ugly win.
Tuesday’s contest against the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder wasn’t pretty, with each team shooting 38 percent from the field, but the Pistons will take the outcome.
The Thunder rested two of their starters, preparing for the postseason, while the Pistons were still trying to scratch their way in.
With a late surge in the fourth quarter, the Pistons held on for an 88-82 win over the Thunder — who were playing without starters Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka — on Tuesday night at The Palace.
“I will guarantee you — that you will not see that on NBA Classics,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The win is their sixth in the last seven games and pulled the Pistons (40-35) into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, after the Chicago Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers. The Pistons improved to 6-2 on their nine-game home stand.
Marcus Morris had 24 points and seven rebounds and Andre Drummond added 13 points and 15 rebounds, for his 62nd double-double of the season.
The Pistons shot 22 percent in the fourth quarter and managed just five field goals but hit 7 of 8 free throws — all in the final 2:18 — to help put the game away.
“We didn’t get the ball in the basket; we didn’t play a really good offensive game,” Van Gundy. “We were able to stay in there and fight and get the win.”
With Durant out, Russell Westbrook carried the scoring load, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the first half but had a hard time getting there, finishing 8-of-28 shooting.
The Thunder struggled in the third period, hitting just 3 of 20 field goals and the Pistons raced ahead, taking a 25-9 advantage in the quarter.
“I thought during different points of the game, we had a hard time offensively,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “You had some different guys playing, different times, different rotations, which is expected. Our defense was really consistent; it was strong from start to finish.”
The Pistons led, 71-57, heading into the fourth quarter but the Thunder (52-23) opened with a 12-2 run, scoring the first six points behind a 3-pointer by Randy Foye and a pair of baskets by Enes Kanter (14 points and 14 rebounds).
After Caldwell-Pope hit a jumper, Foye answered with a jumper and Kanter added a 3-pointer, cutting the Pistons’ lead to 75-74.
Morris responded with a baseline jumper and Jackson converted a drive for a 79-74 advantage. Still, the Thunder kept pushing, with a 3-pointer by Westbrook.
But Drummond split a pair of free throws and Jackson added a drive and dunk to make it a five-point lead at the 1:29 mark.
After a Kanter dunk cut it to 82-79, Jackson made a pair of free throws. Westbrook responded with another 3-pointer, making it a two-point game. But Jackson put the game away with another pair of clutch free throws with eight seconds remaining.
“Sometimes, we’re not going to be on and sometimes we will,” Morris said. “We found a way to pull it out and got the W.”
In the first quarter, the Pistons got a boost from Harris, who had 11 points and sparked a quick 17-10 lead. Drummond had a putback dunk in the final minute and the Pistons had a 25-21 advantage. But the Thunder moved ahead early in the second quarter, with a dunk by Josh Huestis and consecutive baskets by Kanter, for a 27-25 lead.
The Pistons moved ahead with a putback by Morris and two straight baskets by Johnson, which started an 8-0 spurt.
The Thunder got four points in an 8-3 stretch but Morris scored seven in a row for the Pistons — including four free throws — to keep it close. Westbrook scored nine straight Thunder points and Huestis added a 3-pointer in the final minute for a 48-46 halftime lead for Oklahoma City.
Morris finished 9-of-13 and continued his hot stretch, with 24 3-pointers in the last 10 games, mixing outside shooting with a dependable touch inside the arc.
“He might have the best mid-range game I’ve seen in my entire time of playing basketball,” Drummond said.
The third quarter was the undoing for the Thunder. They shot 3-of-20 and managed just nine points, a season low. The Pistons trailed, 51-48, after Andre Roberson’s putback at the 11:00 mark, but answered with a 20-2 spurt.
Morris started the run with a lay-in and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added back-to-back baskets. Tobias Harris (17 points and seven rebounds) followed with a drive and Drummond a basket off a feed from Reggie Jackson for the first 10 points. Morris had three more jumpers during the second 10-point stretch.