Pistons make Dwane Casey's debut a sterling one
Detroit — For openers, it wasn’t a bad outing. For new coach Dwane Casey, who was making his debut for the Pistons, there were some good things and some things that they’ll want to fix.
All that matters at the end of the day is that it’s a victory for the Pistons.
That, and Andre Drummond’s 3-pointer.
There was a little bit of everything in the season opener, as the Pistons fell behind by 12 in the first quarter but climbed out of the hole and rallied for a 103-100 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena, before an announced crowd of 20,332.
The new Pistons era started much like the last one ended, with Blake Griffin and Drummond leading the way. Griffin showed his all-around game, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Drummond added 24 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first Pistons player with a 20-20 game in a season opener.
The Pistons played without starters Stanley Johnson (sore toe) and Reggie Bullock (flu) but relied on their other three starters, with Reggie Jackson chipping in 19 points, including two free throws with 6.2 seconds left, for the final margin.
“It was a good win; we’ll take it. That was the theme of the summer: bouncing back and playing through adversity and our guys did,” Casey said. “We were down two starters and if you had told me Bruce Brown would be the opening-night starter … but the young man came in and played his butt off.”
It wasn’t easy, though.
The Pistons fell into an 8-0 deficit to start the game and had to fight back from a 12-point hole early in the first quarter.
“We hit those jitters early, but I was proud of the way we stayed calm, fought back and got into it,” Griffin said. “Ultimately, we have to do a better job of putting it away when we get a lead and not have to have a game like that. But, like we always say, you take a win any way you can get it.”
The Pistons had an 83-76 lead entering the fourth, after Griffin was fouled with 0.7 seconds left and made both free throws. The Nets got hot behind Caris LeVert (27 points) and former Piston Spencer Dinwiddie (23 points and six assists) and made it close down in the fourth quarter.
Dinwiddie scored seven of their first nine points of the period and had several good drives to the rim. His lay-in with 8:04 left shaved the Pistons’ lead to 88-85, but Griffin answered with a strong drive to the rim and drew a flagrant foul. He split the two free throws and scored on a drive on the next possession to push the margin back to six.
LeVert scored on a floater and made one of two free throws, then Dinwiddie scored on a reverse lay-in and LeVert followed with a basket for a 92-91 lead at the 4:25 mark.
The Pistons responded with an 8-2 run — all from Drummond (six) and Griffin (two), to take a 99-94 advantage.
The Nets, who took a 110-108 overtime victory in the preseason, responded with 6-2 spurt, ending with a 3-pointer by Joe Harris (13 points, six rebounds and five assists) to pull within one with 1:14 left.
Without two starters, Casey used Luke Kennard and rookie Bruce Brown in the starting lineup. Kennard chipped in seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Jackson’s free throws were the final points of the game.
One of the highlights for the Pistons was Drummond’s 3-pointer, which drew an ovation from the crowd. It came at the 11:05 mark of the fourth quarter and extended the Pistons’ lead to 86-78. Down the stretch, the Pistons got the stops they needed, to preserve the win.
“We don’t want to have too many games like that and give (Casey) some gray hairs,” Griffin said.