Reggie Jackson helps surging Pistons power past Lakers
Detroit — The run is coming, just maybe a little too late to make a difference in the Pistons’ sputtering push toward a playoff run in the final weeks of the season.
They got hot toward the end of the long western trip and picked up another win on Saturday against the struggling Chicago Bulls.
They added one Monday.
The Pistons had a surge at the end of the third quarter and played well down the stretch in the fourth, pulling away from the Los Angeles Lakers and taking a 112-106 victory at Little Caesars Arena.
The win pulls the Pistons (34-40) within five games of the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with eight games to go.
Reggie Jackson had 20 points — his best game since returning from his ankle injury — Reggie Bullock had 16 points, and Andre Drummond 15 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons, who have won four of their last five games and only play three teams with winning records in the remaining eight.
Jackson had seven points and two assists in the fourth quarter and looked to be getting closer to his familiar role as a closer. But in only his fourth game back, he’s still got more to do.
“He finished the game, so it was a step forward, but a few too many minutes, quite honestly,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We probably should have him down more to 24 or 25 minutes.”
Jackson had been playing the beginnings of quarters only, but played the last eight minutes of the fourth and showed some flashes.
“He just looked comfortable; he’s starting to get his wind back,” forward Blake Griffin said. “There’s literally no substitute for basketball conditioning and basketball shape, so just playing the game and practicing has helped him a lot.
“He looks very in control — and that’s a good sign.”
The Pistons finished the third quarter with a 7-0 run in the last 1:12, with a jumper from Ish Smith (12 points), a lay-In by James Ennis III and a 3-pointer by Anthony Tolliver (15 points), for an 81-76 advantage heading to the fourth.
Tolliver hit another 3-pointer and Ennis added a 3-pointer in the first 70 seconds of the fourth, getting the Pistons out to a 6-2 start and an 87-78 margin.
The Lakers had back-to-back three-point plays by Brook Lopez (14 points and nine assists) and Julius Randle (23 points and 11 rebounds) to pull within 93-90, but Griffin (15 points) and Tolliver responded with back-to-back dunks to push the margin back to seven.
The Pistons put the game away with consecutive 3-pointers by Griffin and Jackson, for their largest lead, 105-93, at the 2:56 mark. The Lakers (32-41) didn’t go away quietly.
Lonzo Ball (15 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists) hit a 3-pointer and Randle hit two free throws to get within seven and Lakers coach Luke Walton tried an old bit to try to get closer: fouling Drummond intentionally.
It didn’t work.
Drummond hit four straight free throws and pushed the lead back to 11 with 2:02 left, giving the Pistons a comfortable cushion.
Jackson was the headliner, though, taking another step forward in his comeback from the injury that sidelined him for more than two months.
“It was good enough to get a win; I just want to play well enough,” Jackson said. “I always want to play my best but I want to play well enough to help this team get wins in any possible way.”
Here are some other observations from the Pistons’ win:
■Before the game, the Pistons paid homage to Grand Rapids Drive forward Zeke Upshaw, who died Monday morning. The Pistons had a moment of silence at Little Caesars Arena to honor Upshaw, 26, who collapsed near the end of Saturday’s Drive win at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids.
■Blake Griffin was limited by foul trouble for most of the game. He uncharacteristically picked up his second foul at the 3:48 mark of the first quarter and went to the bench for Drummond. He got a double-technical foul with Ball after the two got tangled up in the second quarter and Griffin got his fourth personal with 8:13 left in the third. Griffin got another technical foul in the final minute, after he had already fouled out.
■Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made his first visit back to play against his former team. In his pregame introduction, there were some audible boos, after Caldwell-Pope and the Pistons couldn’t agree to contract terms in the offseason and the relinquished their rights, opening the door to the Lakers getting him as free agent.
■Pistons fans got their first look at Lakers rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. They weren’t disappointed. Ball flirted with a triple-double and Kuzma (20 points and 11 rebounds) posted a double-double. Kuzma, from the Flint area, drew “Kuuuz” chants for most of the game when he scored or made a good play.