Pistons repel Mavericks, break on winning note
Auburn Hills — In his postgame news conference, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy lasted about 90 seconds.
He didn’t want to ruin what he hopes will be a good All-Star break for the Pistons after a win.
It wasn’t an easy win. It wasn’t a pretty win. But it was a win — and Van Gundy will take it, pock marks and all.
It was almost just the tale of one half. The Pistons raced to a double-digit lead in the first 3½ minutes and had a robust, 27-point lead at halftime, their biggest of the season.
But it wasn’t over.
The Pistons had to hold on through a furious surge by the Dallas Mavericks in the second half before putting away a wire-to-wire, 98-91 victory on Wednesday night at The Palace.
The Pistons (27-30) head into the All-Star break with a hard-fought win, rather than wallowing for five days on what would have been one of their most deflating defeats of the season. Instead, they claimed their first season sweep over the Mavericks since 1997-98.
“You just put it in the win column, go to our break, relax a little bit and move on,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not going to sit up here and give a lot of negative stuff and I’m also not going to make excuses — it was a bad (second) half.”
They’ll start the final stretch of 25 games on a positive note, having won six of their last nine and holding a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
And they’re only a half-game behind the Chicago Bulls for seventh and 2½ games from the Indiana Pacers in sixth. Both teams play Thursday.
Reggie Jackson led the way with 22 points, his highest-scoring output since Jan. 28. Jon Leuer 20 points and Andre Drummond nine points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons (27-30).
“Shots just went in and coach kept calling my number,” Jackson said. “They kept having coverages where they didn’t want to come off our wings nor leave Andre (Drummond), so I was the recipient of the coverage they played tonight.”
The Pistons jumped to a 10-0 run, with a drive by Jackson, a pair of baskets by Marcus Morris (six points, career-high-tying 14 rebounds), a reverse dunk by Drummond and a jumper by Leuer, part of an opening 15-2 salvo, along with a 3-pointer by Jackson and another dunk by Drummond.
Drummond, who played only 19 minutes, picked up his second foul, at the 7-minute mark, and the Mavericks started to surge. Wesley Matthews scored and Harrison Barnes (16 points) followed with a bank shot. The Pistons didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:10 of the first quarter — just four free throws by Leuer — and the Mavericks got a pair of baskets from Matthews and a hook from Andrew Bogut.
The Pistons led, 27-17, after the first quarter and after Leuer made two free throws to start the second, Tobias Harris (13 points) hit a 3-pointer to boost the lead back to 15. The bench group surged, with a 12-4 spurt, with six points from Ish Smith (10 points) and two jumpers from Leuer for a 46-23 lead at the 7:03 mark.
They had another big run with the starters, on a 3-pointer from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16 points) followed by five straight Pistons points from Jackson. Caldwell-Pope had two more baskets and Aron Baynes a layin with 24.4 seconds left, for a commanding 62-35 lead at halftime.
“We burned the first half at halftime. We got rid of it, so it’s gone,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “The second half has got to be the norm for us. The first half was an embarrassment and we all know it and we all own it.
“It cost us the game; it’s pretty clear.”
Dirk Nowitzki erupted in the third quarter with 13 of his 24 points, leading a Mavericks surge. They scored the first seven points of the quarter, in the opening two minutes, off a pair of free throws from Deron Williams, a jumper from Nowitzki and a 3-pointer from Seth Curry (13 points), trimming the lead to 20.
After a Drummond free throw, Barnes hit another jumper and Nowitzki added a 3-pointer. Jackson answered with a 3-pointer and Nowitzki hit another jumper.
The Mavericks’ run reached 22-8 in the opening six minutes, as Nowitzki, who added 10 rebounds, scored all 13 in that spurt. But Caldwell-Pope responded with a jumper and Harris a baseline turnaround jumper, pushing the lead back to 17.
The Mavericks (22-34) kept pushing and cut the lead to 78-63 entering the fourth.
Smith kept the Pistons going, with their first two baskets of the period, but the Mavericks got a drive from Yogi Ferrell, a steal and layin by Devin Harris and a three-point play by Dorian Finney-Smith. Ferrell added a 3-pointer and the lead was down to 82-73 with 8:29 remaining.
After another 3-pointer by Curry, the margin was down to eight with 5:32 to go, but the Mavericks didn’t get any closer until the final 3-pointer with three seconds left.