Auburn Hills — Four-game slide, over.
General complaints about a Pistons team and its (a) listlessness, (b) estrangement from rebounds, and (c) basketball mind-and-body relationship?
All of it shelved, at least temporarily, after the Pistons used plenty of Andre Drummond, garnished with a liberal dose of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, en route to a 107-84 Thanksgiving eve walloping of the Miami Heat at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
“This was one we had to have,” said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who will enjoy Thursday’s calories-fest ahead of the Pistons’ return to hard labor Friday at home against the soaring Los Angeles Clippers.
The Pistons looked Wednesday as if they had simply grown tuckered of losing, especially when three of those gut-punches had come by three points or fewer.
And so, after Van Gundy had made clear he wasn’t enamored of his team’s ways, no matter if star guard Reggie Jackson has been wearing ice bags since early autumn, Detroit decided Wednesday to end what the Pistons collectively regarded as nonsense.
They socked the Heat with scoring stretches that gave the home gang leads of 12 points (after one quarter), 14 points (halftime), and 22 points (after three quarters) as they progressively turned the Heat into a Thanksgiving appetizer.
Drummond was, yes, at the center of matters as he leaped, whirled, drove, dunked, screened, and hammered his way for 18 points, 15 rebounds, and an assist, as well as four steals and four blocked shots.
“A lot of guys played well tonight, but he set the tone,” said Van Gundy, whose two-way tributes to Drummond spanned most of his postgame press chat. “When he plays like that, we’ve got a chance against anyone.
“I thought most of what we did at both ends started with him and, in most cases, ended with him.”
And, yet another plaudit from the coach: “It was maybe the best defensive game he’s played for us.”
And not this only this season. Van Gundy thought Drummond’s Wednesday night virtuoso, which helped treat the Heat to 36-percent trauma from outside, might have been surpassed by only one other Drummond defensive gem: last season at Cleveland.
“Pretty good night,” said Drummond, who wasn’t into a lot of introspection. “Just effort and energy.”
The script had called for something of a Dodge City showdown between Drummond and the Heat’s heavy artillery piece, 6-foot-10 Hassan Whiteside. But it was Drummond’s show all the way, at least in terms of eliminating Whiteside and taking care of the night’s heaviest chore.
Drummond, as Van Gundy acknowledged, got ample help.
Caldwell-Pope was a particularly lovely partner as he added 22 points, 13 of them during a third-quarter jailbreak that saw the Pistons all but usher Miami from the building.
Also lending a big hand was Tobias Harris, with 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
It was a game that might, for Van Gundy and the Pistons, have been more like therapy after the past week’s misadventures. And even if it came against a Heat team that is now 4-10, the Pistons made progress, and in the process bumped their record to 7-9.
“I thought our guys played with energy,” said Van Gundy, who was displeased with only one facet of Detroit’s game: The Heat’s 30 free-throw tickets.
It might have been foreseen. Driving through the rain and chill, en route to their date with the Heat, the Pistons had been about as happy with themselves as Van Gundy was with a team that had figured out how to play just well enough to lose during their four-game tumble.
That might have explained a splendid first quarter when they began unleashing Drummond en route to a 28-16 lead. The Pistons seemed to purge themselves of all the bad rebounding, mid-gear defense, and general laxness that Van Gundy had seen in some previous mishaps.
Drummond had eight points, five rebounds, an assist, and four blocks, all while his presumed nemesis, Whiteside, was collecting zeros.
The Pistons, though, throttled back in the second quarter and Miami suddenly had chopped Detroit’s lead to 33-30 on a Rodney McGruder lay-up with 7:12 to play in the half.
Revival, Pistons, courtesy of a 19-6 run, with Drummond either slamming an alley-oop feed from Marcus Morris, or nailing home a putback, or grabbing a series of sky-clawing rebounds, or whatever seemed to be required or imagined, as the Pistons rebuilt a 56-42 lead at the half.
The Pistons wrapped up business steadily in the second half. And, as the clobbering unfurled, they might have been forgiven for thinking what life could be like once they reclaim Jackson in early December.
Getting Jackson back in early December would be appreciated. And while that’s the forecast, the Pistons in the interim had to show they had enough complementary features to make Jackson a true difference-maker when he sheds the ice chips and returns at point guard.
It left Van Gundy and Co. to hope their new and improved habits might again be on display Friday night at The Palace.
Opponent: The Clippers.
Objective: Keep up the good work. And, if need be, get out of Drummond’s way. The man needs room to display all those exceptional basketball skills.