Blake Griffin talks after the Pistons win over the Kings. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Sacramento — The Pistons weren’t going to get to unlucky 13.
Eventually, their season-long road skid was going to have to end — or their six-game road trip could have finished with a crash instead of a bang.
The Pistons couldn’t pull away in the first half but found their flow in the third quarter, finally getting the kick they needed, ending their streak of 12 straight road losses with a 106-90 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night at Golden 1 Center.
It’s the Pistons’ first win on the road since Jan. 10, at Brooklyn. After a 6-4 start to the season on the road — with surprising wins at Golden State, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Boston — they’ve fallen on hard times, improving to 10-25 away from home with the victory.
Blake Griffin had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Ish Smith 18 points and Reggie Bullock 17 for the Pistons (31-39), who ended their three-game losing streak. They will go for two straight Tuesday night, when they play the Phoenix Suns, who have lost 23 of their last 25.
Monday's was their first road win since they acquired Griffin, who arrived at the end of January. When informed of that record, Griffin was a bit surprised.
“Great. This time of year, you’ll take it any way you can get it, but you get one on the road after being on the road for eight nights already — it’s always great,” Griffin said. “We took care of business and we have to go and do it again.”
The Kings (23-49) stayed close, tying it at 57 at the 7:27 mark of the third quarter. The Pistons pulled ahead with the next nine points, with seven by Griffin, including a drive, a scooping drive and a 3-pointer. Sacramento answered with two more baskets, but Griffin had a two-handed dunk and two more free throws to keep the lead at nine.
Stan Van Gundy talks after Pistons win over Kings. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
The Pistons had a 73-66 advantage entering the fourth and used a 12-2 run to take their largest lead to that point, 85-68, with 7:22 left. James Ennis had four free throws and Luke Kennard (10 points) and Anthony Tolliver (12 points) each had a 3-pointer.
“I thought our second half, particularly at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, we were really, really good,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Ish was good and Reggie (Bullock) played really well.
I thought at times, we had really good ball movement. Our defense, we played in stretches, but we made our runs off good defensive plays.”
The Pistons were in the midst of a string of 13 losses in the last 16 games, but played well enough in holding the Kings to just 26 percent (6-of-23) on 3-pointers and not getting to the free-throw line (4-of-9).
Buddy Hield (20 points) hit a bank shot after a second Kennard 3-pointer to bring the margin to 14, but the Pistons put the game away with a finishing 10-2 spurt, with a 3-pointer and two free throws by Smith and a 3-pointer and jumper by Bullock, for a 98-76 margin.
De’Aaron Fox had 16 points and Justin Jackson 15 for the Kings, who lost their second straight.
“We had a pretty ugly game there. We did not play well, did not shoot the basketball very well, did not execute very well,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We were a step slow most of the night …
“They were more aggressive than we were and they made some more shots.”
Here are some other observations from the Pistons’ win.
♦Stanley Johnson moved into the starting lineup, in place of James Ennis III. Johnson had 11 points, four rebounds and three steals. “We just haven’t been going very well with the other starting lineup. To be quite honest, it’s the numbers,” Van Gundy said.
Ennis finished with four points in 13 minutes.
♦Kings guard Vince Carter had another career milestone, passing Patrick Ewing for 22nd on the NBA career scoring list, with 24,817 points. Carter finished with seven points and got the big basket on a 3-pointer. Van Gundy joked that the jumper came on a blown coverage.
♦Luke Kennard played better on the defensive end and played 27 minutes, contributing 10 points, with a pair of 3-pointers. He’s been building confidence on the defensive end.
“The more that I’ve played, the more I’ve learned — there’s so many things in this game (to learn),” Kennard said. “The comfort of just playing and getting my mind and body into the same spots at the same time. It’s taking some time and I’ve had some ups and downs with it.”
♦Bullock continued his hot shooting, with three 3-pointers and shot 7-of-13 from the field overall. He’s playing better with Griffin in the lineup and can find his spots in the offensive framework easily.