'Reggie being Reggie': Jackson powers Pistons past Timberwolves
Minneapolis — In a matter of minutes, the Pistons’ three-game road trip turned from a potential shutout to one they could hold their heads up for.
They were disappointed by dropping the first two games, against the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers, but found themselves in another hole. They trailed the Minnesota Timberwolves by 11 points in the third quarter and in a reversal of their blown 22-point lead against the Pacers, they rallied and overcame the deficit.
Reggie Jackson stole the show and carried the Pistons to a 100-97 victory over the Timberwolves, helping them salvage the finale on Sunday night at Target Center.
The Pistons (11-5) swept the season series against Minnesota (10-6) and sixth straight in the head-to-head matchup. They continue with a back-to-back against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Jackson scored nine of his 16 points in the final five minutes, including back-to-back drives to take the lead for good with 55.5 seconds left. He added four assists and garnered some high praise from pick-and-roll partner Andre Drummond, who had 20 points, 16 rebounds and four assists.
“Reggie Jackson was being Reggie Jackson. Under five minutes, just give that man the basketball and let him play,” said Drummond, who had two blocks, reaching 600 for his career. “He did an amazing job getting guys open — Avery (Bradley) hit two threes and he got me for a hook shot in the paint and he scored the rest of the way. We couldn’t ask for a bigger momentum swing.”
The Timberwolves trimmed the lead to 96-95 but Jackson followed with a jumper to maintain a three-point advantage.
Jimmy Butler (26 points, 10 rebounds and four assists) had a chance to tie it at 98 after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with 6.2 seconds remaining. Butler made the first two but missed the third, after Jackson and Stanley Johnson stepped in the lane and seemed to disrupt his concentration at the free-throw line.
Tobias Harris (18 points, nine rebounds) was fouled and made both free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining and Butler’s last-second 3-pointer rattled out, giving the Pistons the final margin.
“We were having trouble in some of our movement and Reggie was making good plays so we ran a steady diet of Reggie pick-and-rolls down the stretch,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He made great decisions and great passes.”
Drummond had two key baskets down the stretch, both off deft passes from Jackson. Avery Bradley (18 points) was integral in the comeback as well, with a pair of 3-pointers during a critical stretch, which trimmed the lead to 86-82 at the 5:32 mark. The trio of Jackson, Bradley and Drummond combined for 25 of the final 29 points in the fourth quarter.
Jackson took over in the final minutes and carried the Pistons to victory, reminiscent of his dominant play in the 2015-16 season. He’s had some ups and downs this season, but he’s showing signs of getting his mojo back.
“His pass to Andre was incredible and then he had the skip pass to the corner for Avery. He made a lot of good plays and they defended it and he hit a huge stepback,” Van Gundy said. “That was his best finish of the year. He got a lot of credit in the Atlanta game — he made some shots. This was great point-guard play down the stretch.”
The Pistons surged midway through the fourth quarter, with a 9-2 spurt, with an alley-oop from Ish Smith to Drummond, then a coast-to-coast basket for Smith and a back-door cut for Bradley, getting within five points. After a jumper by Andrew Wiggins (24 points), Bradley hit a corner 3-pointer to pull within 86-82 with 5:32 remaining.
The teams traded baskets and after Bradley hit another 3-pointer to cut the lead in half, but Wiggins answered again with a baseline jumper. The Pistons surged again, with Jackson splitting a pair of free throws, converting a pick-and-roll play with Drummond, followed by a bank shot from Drummond.
“It’s good; it was great for us. We didn’t want to go back 0-for-3 on this road trip,” Jackson said. “We had two tough losses and just wanted to find a way to pull one out somehow.”
Some additional observations:
■ Stanley Johnson missed three games because of a hip flexor and back issue and was out of the lineup for about 10 days. He looked a bit sluggish in his first two games back — both Pistons losses — but seemed to be moving better Sunday. He had a tough defensive assignment, shadowing the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler. On the offensive end, he came through with his best game in weeks, with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
■ Tobias Harris struggled on the offensive end on the first two games of the road trip, averaging just 14 points. He shot a combined 10-of-27 (37 percent) from the field and just 3-of-9 on 3-pointers, where he was shooting about 50 percent in the first 12 games of the season. He was bound to cool off, but added to his woes with an 0-of-6 start on Sunday. He turned things around in the third, with 4-of-6 in the third quarter.
■ In the latest edition of the bench shuffle, Henry Ellenson has been on the outside looking in. He had a good start to the season, playing in four of the first six games, but has seen action in just one of the next seven. It’s not anything that Ellenson has — or hasn’t — done; it’s more that Anthony Tolliver has become indispensable off the bench, providing tough defense and better 3-point shooting.
■ The Timberwolves bench is very much a weakness on a team that is contending as one of the best teams in the West. During a key stretch of the third quarter, coach Tom Thibodeau decided to keep Jimmy Butler out on the floor with a couple reserves while Towns and Wiggins rested. The strategy worked, as they were able to hold the lead and stay fresh without giving up a bi run with an all-bench cast.
■ In the past few games, Andre Drummond has been getting lobs and tip-dunk opportunities but has had some trouble getting a handle on the ball, for turnovers and loose balls. A different approach of just catching, gathering and going back up strong would give him a better look at the rim and not have to do so much in traffic.