Pistons struggle early, finally put away Mavericks
Dallas — Many of the Pistons called Sunday night’s 18-point blowout loss to the 76ers at The Palace embarrassing.
They dodged getting another one that would have been just as bad.
The Pistons followed their worst performance of the season — falling to the team with the worst record in the East — with nail-biter against the team with the worst record in the West.
After playing neck-and-neck in an error-filled first half, they rebounded for a 95-85 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
The win continues the Pistons’ streak of alternating wins and losses over the last seven games. They avoided adding to their resume of bad losses this season: at Brooklyn, at Phoenix, home against Orlando and against the 76ers.
The Pistons committed 13 of their season-high 19 turnovers in the first half, which stunted their offensive production.
“Defensively, we did OK most of the night, but offensively, we were pathetic,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Thirteen turnovers in the first half — we average fewer than 12. Their pressure got to us; we didn’t take care of the ball and that is what kept them in the game.”
Reggie Jackson had a season-high 20 points and Jon Leuer added a season-high 19 points. Andre Drummond added three points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons (14-13), who have won five of their last six road games.
The Mavericks (6-19) took their largest lead, 64-52, with 3:20 left in the third quarter, following a three-point play by Dwight Powell, and looked to have the game in hand.
The Pistons' reserve group — Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (11 points), Stanley Johnson, Leuer and Aron Baynes — rallied and finished the period with an 8-0 run, with baskets by Caldwell-Pope and Leuer and two free throws each by Baynes and Johnson. That cut the deficit to four heading into the final period.
“It was really our whole bench. If you just look at the plus-minus numbers, we won the game with our bench,” Van Gundy said. “Reggie finished really well but our bench won the game.”
The Pistons pulled ahead on a 3-pointer by Johnson and a three-point play by Leuer, to make it 68-67 with 10:28 left. Powell answered with a jumper, but the Pistons scored the next 11 points, with a jumper and 3-pointer by Marcus Morris (12 points). The run boosted the lead to 79-69 with 5:11 remaining.
The Mavs cut it to 83-79 with 3:26 left, after a dunk by Harrison Barnes (19 points), but Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer, followed by two free throws from Jackson helped make it a nine-point lead — and the Pistons held on.
Jackson scored nine points in the final period and had flashes of his finishes last season, when he was the Pistons’ undisputed closer. Getting into the paint and getting better shot chances showed that he’s progressing in his return from tendinitis issues.
“It felt good to have my legs under me and the encouragement of my coaches and teammates to tell me to keep attacking and go downhill to make plays,” said Jackson, who added six assists.
Johnson, who played ahead of Darrun Hilliard as the first wing off the bench, had a good defensive game and added seven points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.
He helped in the defensive effort the Mavericks’ wings and Devin Harris — which helped shut down the run and they finished with a 43-21 margin in the final 15 minutes.
“We really got a lot of people to play well and Stanley Johnson was a lot better, so it was good,” Van Gundy said.
After scoring the first four points of the game, the Pistons allowed 10 straight, with three straight baskets by Barnes capped by a 3-pointer. Deron Williams (16 points) hit three straight free throws to cap the stretch.
The Pistons went scoreless for seven minutes, which ended with a jumper by Leuer at the 3:35 mark and fueled a 7-0 spurt, with a 3-pointer from Morris and a putback by Drummond for an 11-10 lead.
The Mavericks led, 20-17, after the first quarter and rallied to tie it at 43 at halftime, after the Pistons had a 9-4 spurt for a four-point lead.
Throughout the game, the Pistons offense was improved over Sunday’s performance, but they had to navigate around a season-worst 19 turnovers, with 13 coming in the first half. They had a decided advantage on the boards, 29-9, in the first half and shot 49 percent (18-of-37), but couldn’t overcome the turnovers.