'Two weeks of hell': Pistons snap seven-game skid
Atlanta — Ding, dong, the losing streak is dead.
It was getting to be a long — and winless — December for the Pistons, who last got a victory on Nov. 29 against the Phoenix Suns.
After a draining seven-game skid, they got the Atlanta Hawks, their first sub-.500 opponent in more than two weeks.
They took care of business — with a convincing 105-91 victory over the Hawks on Thursday night at Philips Arena — and almost got something special along with it.
Andre Drummond was just short of a triple-double with 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-best nine assists. Tobias Harris added 19 points and Avery Bradley had 18 points for the Pistons (15-13), who finish the road back-to-back Friday at Indiana.
“We got what we were looking for. We needed to win a game to get ourselves going again to give us the motivation and excitement again,” said Drummond, who added two blocks and two steals. “We have to win another game tomorrow to propel ourselves and get going.”
All five starters scored in double figures and Langston Galloway was also a difference-maker off the bench, scoring in double figures for the second straight game, with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists.
The Pistons led by 20 early in the fourth quarter, but coach Stan Van Gundy kept the starters in late in the game, as the Hawks (6-22) chipped away at the margin and closed within striking distance in the final minutes.
“I was making sure we got the win; I wasn’t messing around with that game even a little,” Van Gundy said. “It’s been two weeks of hell — we’re going to make sure we get this one.”
Van Gundy said he was aware that Drummond was closing in on a triple-double, but was more leery when the Hawks got close. He wanted Drummond to have a chance to get it, but also wanted to avoid the possibility of an injury.
The Pistons kept Reggie Bullock in the starting lineup for the second straight game and he produced 10 points in another solid performance. They blew things open in the second quarter, with an 11-2 start, with 3-pointers by Galloway, Anthony Tolliver and a finisher by Galloway, and a floater by Stanley Johnson. That turned a 31-30 first-quarter deficit into a 41-33 lead.
The Hawks got within two after a mini-run, including a lay-in by Ersan Ilyasova (23 points), a jumper and 3-pointer by Dennis Schroder (nine points, 10 assists) and a 3-pointer by Kent Bazemore for a 45-43 margin with 3:57 left.
The Pistons pulled away with a 14-3 run to finish the half, including a drive and 3-pointer by Bradley and a 3-pointer by Bullock with 32.3 seconds left, for a 59-46 halftime lead.
It was a better offensive flow for the Pistons, who had what Van Gundy called one of the worst of his career, but got better execution and production with a revamped approach and some different play calls.
“We were better defensively after that first quarter and we were pretty good offensively all night,” Van Gundy said. “We played well against this team; I’ve seen their last few games and they’re playing everybody close.
“Our pace and ball movement were good and when we got shots, we made them — that always helps.”
With a 7-0 start to the third quarter — with a floater and 3-pointer by Bradley and a floater by Jackson — they pushed the margin to 66-46 and were on their way to ending the skid.
Drummond’s final stat line provided the only remaining drama, as he got his ninth assist on a pass to Harris for a dunk with 3:46 remaining. That 10th assist proved elusive, but Drummond was happy with his night.
“Call me Santa Dre and I’m handing out gifts,” he said. “I’m just moving the ball around get my teammates in the right position to score.”
After Ish Smith picked up three quick fouls, Galloway played heavy minutes at point guard — and delivered.
“It’s the first time we’ve been pressed to use him as a point guard and he did a good job,” Van Gundy said. “Obviously, he shot the ball well, so those were big.”
■ Smith’s early foul trouble, getting three in a 1:42 span in the first quarter, threw the rotation into a bit of a flux. Jackson came back earlier than normal and Galloway played a long stint with the reserves and contributed on the offensive end, with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists in the first half.
■ Former Piston Ilyasova soared for the Hawks, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the first quarter and going 5 of 6 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers. Ilyasova showed his versatility, hitting from inside and the perimeter on a variety of moves.
■ Eric Moreland had one of his most active games, accounting for a career-best 11 rebounds. The Pistons dominated on the boards, 47-33, with Drummond and Moreland combining for 30.
■ Reggie Bullock got his second straight start and chipped in a season-high 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 23 minutes. Bullock was 2-for-4 on 3-pointers, added two rebounds and helped solidify the offense with good all-around play.
■ The Pistons were hot from 3-point range, hitting 43 percent (13-for-30), led by Galloway (5-for-8) and Bradley (2-for-2).