Phoenix — It’s not about the numbers; it’s really about the eye test for Reggie Jackson.
In his first game back in the lineup after missing 37 games, the only important number was minutes — he played 15 — and moved around well on his right ankle, which he’s been rehabbing from a Grade-3 sprain since Dec. 26.
So far, so good.
Jackson had seven points and two assists and the Pistons cruised to a 115-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. It’s the Pistons’ second straight win and they’ll look to finish their six-game western road trip at .500 in the finale on Thursday at Houston.
“It was just good to have him out there and I thought he played pretty well — actually better than I thought he would after three months off,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Jackson was the story but Blake Griffin was the show, with 26 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Griffin was an efficient 9-of-15 from the field, with three 3-pointers and had one of his best all-around games as a Piston.
“Wow, I mean, he was great tonight — I mean great,” Van Gundy said. “Had I realized he was one rebound away (from a triple-double), I probably would have given him another minute or so.”
Luke Kennard had 16 points and Ish Smith 13 for the Pistons (32-39), who moved to 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth place in the Eastern playoff race with 11 games left.
Jackson played about the first four minutes of each quarter and though he looked to be just trying to get his movements down in the first period, he got aggressive and hit a 3-pointer and a rainbow jumper in the second. He had another jumper in the third for his seven points and finished 3-of-7 from the field.
“When Reggie gets back to 100 percent, when he’s feeling like himself, we’re going to be a great team,” said Andre Drummond, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. “With Blake and I, the sky is the limit.”
Griffin got going early in the first half, with seven points in the first quarter and nine in the second. He had four free throws, then a 3-pointer and jumper back-to-back, for a 42-35 lead. Drummond finished the half with a dunk and gave the Pistons a six-point margin.
The Pistons pulled away with an 18-4 spurt midway through the third, with a three-point play and a jumper by Griffin and six points from Smith.
The defense and hustle picked up, creating some easy transition opportunities, which helped put the game away.
“Defense, hustle plays. Really, in the third quarter, I thought we did better,” Griffin said. “There were stretches where we did better. Stanley Johnson made a big play, dove on the ball and got us a possession and we came down and scored. We just made the extra hustle plays that extended the lead for us.”
The Suns (19-53) lost their 24th game in their last 26 and were playing without star wing Devin Booker, who has a right hand sprain, and T.J. Warren (left knee inflammation). Alex Len had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Troy Daniels 18 points and Josh Jackson 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Jackson’s play was encouraging, especially with the amount of time he’s missed and what he was able to show in short spurts. It wasn’t ideal in terms of getting a good flow, but Van Gundy said he wasn’t going to try to take too much out of one game.
“That’s a really tough way to play. He doesn’t get to make a mistake and see a defense and go at it three times,” Van Gundy said. “Everything is the first play of the game, basically. That was tough but he did a good job with it and our players handled it well.”