'Locked-in' Pistons scorch Suns with 131-point outburst

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — It wasn’t a tale of two halves; rather, it was a tale of just one.

Against the struggling Phoenix Suns, the Pistons dominated from the opening minute and rarely let up. In a season of impressive victories, this was one they just had to find a way not to lose, especially after building a 30-point lead in the second quarter.

That’s all it took.

The Pistons started quickly, with their highest-scoring first quarter and first half of the season and easily dispatching the Suns, 131-107, on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 131, Suns 107

The 131 points are a season-high for the Pistons (14-6) who won their third straight and fourth in the last five games. They embark on a four-game road trip, beginning Friday at Washington.

Reggie Jackson had 23 points, Tobias Harris 20 points, and Andre Drummond added 13 points, seven rebounds and tied his career best with seven assists.

“Offensively, we played really well until the very, very end and defensively in the first half, we played really well,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Coming off a big win like Monday night, it was good to come out and play like that. It was a good sign of maturity, so I was happy with that.”

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Van Gundy was referring to the Pistons’ big win over the Boston Celtics — who have the best record in the league — but he was leery of them letting their guard down against the Suns (8-15), who had lost three straight before winning at Chicago on Tuesday.

The first five minutes could have put Van Gundy’s nerves at ease, as the Pistons jumped out to a 13-6 lead, with four points each from Harris and Jackson. The Suns responded with a 7-2 spurt, with a basket by former Piston Greg Monroe (14 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and a layin by T.J. Warren. Devin Booker (22 points) added a 3-pointer and the lead was down to 15-13.

The Pistons exploded from there, finishing the quarter on a 21-6 run — with 10 points from Harris, including a pair of 3-pointers. Ish Smith (14 points and six assists) added six points, including a layin with 2 seconds left, for a 36-19 lead.

“It was easy for us the last two games (to get fired up) than for this one,” Jackson said. “This one tonight, we had to find a way to bring energy to ourselves. I think we did so. We locked in, stayed with the game plan and the fans were amazing tonight.”

The Suns managed just two baskets the rest of the period — including a putback by Josh Jackson (20 points and seven rebounds) — and dotted the first half with 15 turnovers, which the Pistons turned into 14 points.

The Pistons put it away in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, with an impressive 20-6 spurt. Langston Galloway opened with a 3-pointer, Luke Kennard added a jumper and they got consecutive 3-pointers from Anthony Tolliver, Galloway and another from Tolliver.

Following a jumper by Booker, Avery Bradley (20 points) added back-to-back baskets and Smith hit a layin, for a 56-25 advantage — and the rout was on.

“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be against this team,” Suns coach Jay Triano said. “They had a day to rest and we didn’t. They went right at us, they drove it right past us and made whatever play they wanted to make.”

More observations from the Pistons’ rout:

■ With the lopsided score, Boban Marjanovic saw some rare playing time, for just his third game this season — and for the first time since Nov. 8, against the Pacers. Marjanovic entered with 5:23 left in the game, much to the delight of the crowd, who started chanting for him early in the fourth quarter. Marjanovic delivered on his first touch of the game, hitting a hook shot at the 5:10 mark. He finished with four points and a rebound.

■ Josh Jackson, who played in high school at Detroit Consortium, reportedly got 80 tickets for friends and family for the game. Jackson, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, finished with 20 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes, including a highlight-reel alley-oop dunk late in the fourth quarter.

■ All of the Pistons’ starters shot at least 50 percent from the field, with Bradley going 9-of-12 and Jackson 9-of-13. They went a combined 33-of-51 on (65 percent) on field goals, and 6-of-13 on 3-pointers.

■ As the game got out of hand late, all 13 Pistons played — and 12 of them scored, with Henry Ellenson hitting a long jumper and Marjanovic hitting a hook shot in the lane in the final six minutes.

■ Van Gundy wanted to ensure the Pistons didn’t look past the Suns, who have struggled, but won Tuesday night at Chicago. That letdown was averted, as the Pistons didn’t let the lead get under 20 after they dominated in the first half.