Auburn Hills — When the Pistons tussled with the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this month, it was an absolute disaster.
Detroit was overmatched, outplayed and bullied in every phase as it was pummeled in an embarrassing 32-point loss.
With that beating still fresh on their minds, the Pistons rose to the occasion in the second meeting and knocked off the red-hot Clippers, 108-97, Friday at The Palace.
Marcus Morris had 17 points to lead six double-digit scorers for the Pistons (8-9), who stopped an 11-game skid against the Clippers, beating them for the first time since Nov. 12, 2010. Andre Drummond had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 16 points and a career-high 10 assists, Ish Smith scored 16, Tobias Harris 15 and Jon Leuer 11 off the bench.
Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick each scored 24, Jamal Crawford had 14 and DeAndre Jordan 12 for the Clippers (14-3).
“It was a much-needed win. They beat up on us in L.A.,” Drummond said. “We came out as a collective group. Defensively, we made them real uncomfortable in the first couple minutes of the game and after that we were off to the races.”
After leading by as much as 18 in the first half, the Pistons braced as the Clippers whittled the deficit throughout the third quarter and stormed back to go on top, 84-82, with 10:01 left in the fourth.
The Pistons countered with a 15-2 run to regain control, 97-86, with 5:14 remaining. Darrun Hilliard ignited the flurry with a jumper and three-point play, Morris scored seven straight with two jumpers and a 3-pointer, and Caldwell-Pope capped it with an open 3-pointer from the wing.
The Clippers cut it to seven three times down the stretch, but the Pistons staved off each comeback attempt. Morris and Smith provided the finishing touches with a jumper, fast-break layup and two free throws in the final 1:25 to seal it and hand the Clippers their first road loss of the season.
“We had a lot of effort tonight and that's what it's going to take,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It's not easy, ever, but especially when you play teams like that, it's not going to be easy and you got to fight.
“I think we showed a lot, losing the lead after being up 18 midway through the third, losing the lead, coming back and closing it out the way we did in the fourth.”
In the early stages, it looked like the Pistons — not the Clippers — were leading the league in wins as they got off to a blazing start.
Detroit opened 8-for-11 from the field to take a 19-9 lead with 6:53 left in the first. All five starters were active early with Drummond throwing down a pair of alley-oop slams, Morris knocking down a fadeaway jumper, Harris and Caldwell-Pope each hitting a 3-pointer and floater, and Smith draining a 3-pointer.
The Pistons created some separation, rattling off six straight points for a 31-14 advantage at the 3:32 mark. Smith hit a pull-up jumper before finding Leuer for a two-handed slam in transition. Then after Leuer then drew a charge on Clippers guard Chris Paul (eight points, 15 assists), Caldwell-Pope sank a pair of free throws for a 17-point cushion.
The Clippers closed out with a 7-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 35-23 after one, a quarter in which the Pistons shot 60 percent (15-for-25).
With Drummond and Morris in foul trouble, the Pistons leaned on their bench to preserve the lead. Hilliard scored on a putback off his own missed floater, Beno Udrih made back-to-back baskets and Leuer knocked down a mid-range jumper to give Detroit its largest lead, 45-27, with 8:06 left in second.
The Clippers chipped away and fired back with a 9-2 run to on two Griffin free throws, a Jordan free throw and six straight points by Paul — three free throws and a corner 3-pointer — to cut it to 51-44 with 3:07 remaining.
Smith hit a step-back jumper and Aron Baynes threw down an alley-oop dunk in the final minute to give the Pistons some more room, 57-48, at halftime.
The Pistons opened the second half with a flurry, scoring the first six points on back-to-back Caldwell-Pope 3-pointers to pull ahead, 63-48, less than a minute into the third.
But the Clippers’ high-octane offense began to rev up, using an 11-0 run with an emphatic one-handed dunk by Jordan, Luc Mbah a Moute three-point play and six straight points from Griffin to cut it to 73-67 with 3:44 left in the third.
Smith snapped the momentum with a jumper, but Redick scored 11 in the final 2:10 on two 3-pointers, three free throws and a jumper to chop the lead to 82-80 after three and test the Pistons’ resolve.
“We didn’t panic,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Our second unit kept us ahead and once the starters got back in, we closed it out. There was no panic.
“We just did what we did the whole game. We got (resilience) in us and we know that. We have to continue to play how we played tonight and take that on the road.”