Pistons beat reporter Rod Beard breaks down Detroit's fourth straight victory on Friday. Rod Beard
Detroit — The Batman-and-Robin duo is back again.
The tandem of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson that carried the Pistons to the playoffs in 2016 took a hiatus last season, but marked their return in impressive fashion on Friday, combining for a formidable 1-2 punch.
Drummond flirted with a triple-double with 16 points, 20 rebounds and a career-best seven assists and Jackson tied his season-high with 22 points — including a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the final minute — to catapult the Pistons to a 111-104 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Little Caesars Arena.
Avery Bradley added 20 points, Ish Smith a season-high 17 points and Tobias Harris 16 points and eight rebounds for the Pistons (9-3), who have won four straight — all on the current home stand. They didn’t have a four-game winning streak at all last season, making this their longest string of victories since they notched five in a row on March 25, 2016.
The Pistons built a 55-36 lead in the second quarter and maintained a 16-point cushion at halftime, but had to hold on in the final minutes, which drew coach Stan Van Gundy’s ire.
“They totally outplayed us in the second half,” Van Gundy said. “We offered very little resistance whatsoever and we turned the ball over. They dominated us but because we played a great second quarter and because Reggie made two huge shots, we’re able to get away with the win.
“I’m happy as hell about that but we have to be honest with ourselves — we did not play well in the second half.”
The Hawks (2-10) tied it on back-to-back 3-pointers by Kent Bazemore (22 points) with 3:51 remaining and Jackson answered with a lay-in. The teams traded baskets heading into the final minute, after rookie John Collins (16 points and eight rebounds) scored off an alley-oop pass from Dennis Schroder, who had 17 points and 11 assists.\
Jackson took over from there, with a performance reminiscent of the 2015-16 version of Reggie Jackson — before the knee tendinitis sidetracked last season for him. He acted as the closer in the final minute, with both 3-pointers, plus two free throws that helped push the margin to six with 15.5 seconds to go.
The lament was even letting the Hawks back into the game in the first place.
“We let the game slip away in the fourth quarter,” Drummond said. “We allowed them to get their momentum up and allowed them to get into a groove, but we did what we were supposed to — we locked down and got stops defensively.”
The Pistons had a comfortable halftime lead after a basket by the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon (13 points and nine rebounds), who also had a 3-pointer in the final minute of the half. The Hawks trimmed the lead to seven in the first 4:29 of the third quarter, including two baskets by Schroder and a dunk and lay-in by Collins.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy talks about Detroit's 111-104 win over the Hawks on Friday at Little Caesars Arena. Rod Beard
The Pistons’ bench surged in the final part of the quarter, with Smith adding seven points, including a 3-pointer, in the final five minutes. But the Hawks stayed close, finishing the period with a reverse by Marco Belinelli and two free throws by Bazemore to trim the lead to 76-69.
The late surge in the fourth quarter saved the Pistons, which could turn out to be a blessing, if they’re able to learn from the lax play.
“The most important thing for us is not getting comfortable; we got comfortable in the third quarter,” Bradley said. “They came out and jumped on us and tried to retaliate. For us, to be able to fight back and through the adversity and stick together as a team, it shows a lot about us.”
Pistons center Andre Drummond on the team's fourth straight victory. Rod Beard
Here are some other observations:
At the line: It was a familiar bugaboo that Drummond overcame in order to help put it away. After going 0-for-7 in Wednesday’s win, Drummond made two free throws with 1:28 left for a 100-98 lead. He said his work in practice on Thursday helped him focus and put the bad night out of his mind.
Bench help: The Pistons’ reserves struggled in their first stint, from the end of the first quarter to the middle of the second. In the first 5:58 of the period, the bench started 0-of-6 from the field and finished 4-of-16. Ish Smith led the charge with four points and a nice feed to Eric Moreland for a dunk, but the outside shooters weren’t effective. Langston Galloway (1-of-5), Anthony Tolliver (1-of-5) and Luke Kennard combined to go 3-of-14 from the field.
Digging deeper: With Stanley Johnson (hip flexor) and Jon Leuer (sprained left ankle) missing their second straight game, the Pistons dug into the reserve unit, with Reggie Bullock starting for the second game in a row and Kennard getting some good playing time. Bullock hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with six points.
Star gazing: Lions receiver Golden Tate sat courtside for the game, which was the Pistons’ Hoops for Troops, a salute to the armed forces. During a timeout, Tate was recognized and gave a signed football to one of the service members sitting in the front row. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife, Kelly, as well as punter Sam Martin also were in courtside seats.