‘Try it again’: Pistons’ Drummond feeling it with FTs
Boston — What a difference a year makes.
Make that a year, plenty of practice — and confidence.
Andre Drummond stepped to the free-throw line with a different demeanor this year, after he was fouled late in the fourth quarter, with the game hanging in the balance. Unlike his struggles in previous years, Drummond was up to the task. And more than that.
Clinging to a 100-99 lead with 5:36 left in the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens elected to foul Drummond intentionally to try to disrupt the offensive momentum. Drummond made one of the free throws and the Pistons held on for a stunning 118-108 victory over Monday night.
The hacking strategy is nothing new to Drummond. The difference this year is the result, where he’s hitting 61 percent — a stark increase from the abysmal 38-percent clip from his first five years in the league.
Improved confidence created a different reaction to the ploy this time.
“I laughed. That was the last time they fouled me — and the last time they had the lead,” Drummond said. “They fouled me when they were up one and I tied the game up. I picked my intensity up and if they did it again, I would have (made) two more.”
Indeed, it was the last time the Celtics led, but the bigger takeaway is that Drummond no longer is a liability late in games. Coach Stan Van Gundy can reasonably rely on him to make at least one of the free throws, which takes away one of the popular hacking strategies that teams employed more over the last two seasons.
Van Gundy wasn’t so sure that the intentional fouls are coming to an end, but welcomed more chances for Drummond to make teams pay for trying.
“Somebody will try it again, I hope,” he said. “I thought that was good. We were struggling a little bit and we were able to get a point.”
Drummond proved valuable throughout the game, with a monster stat line: 26 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Drummond became the first visiting player with at least 25 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in Boston since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967.
For Drummond, who grew up in the Connecticut area, it was an opportunity to play in front of family and friends and to send a message to the Celtics that there’s not just one contending team in the Eastern Conference — at least for now.
“They’ll remember it. It’s one of those memorable games; we came in and beat the No. 1 team and I had a lot of points and a hometown kid from this area having the night I did was something they’ll have to remember,” Drummond said. “It’s the (only) time we play here, so it’s something they’ll have to deal with that one for the rest of the year.”