The Pistons won their second straight, 124-109, Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Atlanta — Sometimes, the schedule just works in a team’s favor. The Pistons got what the needed, just when they needed it.
After a slow start to their season, the Pistons’ schedule provided the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks as the fodder to help squelch their struggles.
The Pistons pounced early, built a double-digit lead in the first five minutes and never let the Hawks back in the game, cruising to a 124-109 victory on Friday night at State Farm Arena. It’s the second straight win for the Pistons (6-5), who had a season bests of 40 points after the first quarter and 74 at halftime.
Andre Drummond had 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, Stanley Johnson added 22 points and seven rebounds and Blake Griffin six points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
It was the Pistons’ best opening stretch this season, which had been a struggle this season, as they got off to slow starts and fell into deficits in many of their early games.
Not against the Hawks.
“A lot of times, you have to take the game as it comes. We did an unbelievable job of moving the ball and knocking down shots,” Griffin said. “When we play like that, it’s fun. It was our first game where we really hit shots and played like that.
“To be (6-5) and this being the first good shooting game we’ve had, it was great. Four of those five losses, we’ve been in it until the end.”
The Pistons took control in the opening minutes, hitting their first three shots — a 3-pointer from Reggie Jackson (10 points), a lay-in by Drummond and a 3-pointer by Reggie Bullock — in the first 1:03, to pull ahead, 8-3.
The Hawks (3-9) got a jumper from Omari Spellman (14 points) but the Pistons responded with a 10-0 run — with two jumpers from Bullock and two baskets from Drummond — and expanded it to an 18-3 spurt with a 3-pointer and jumper from Glenn Robinson III (12 points) and another 3-pointer from Bullock, for a 26-8 margin.
“We came out with a sense of urgency and a toughness and disposition. We knew this team was going to run and we met it with getting back in transition immediately,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s amazing when you make shots, how it gives you a little juice to play. Offensively and defensively, we played the game the right way.”
The Pistons raced to a 20-point lead by the end of the first quarter, as Drummond notched 12 points and three rebounds and Bullock had 10 points, his most consistent effort of the early season.
“It was good just to be back confident and seeing some shots go in,” said Bullock, who was 5-of-9 from the field.
The rout continued into the second half, when the Pistons’ lead ballooned to 103-77 after the third quarter when they were able to play mostly reserves.
“It was important; it was something we’ve been talking about for the past four or five games, putting more of an emphasis on it,” Griffin said. “To finally do it, it was a great feeling. It just makes everything easier. Our talk was better because of that and it leads to easy buckets because you have the energy.”
Here are some other observations from Friday’s win:
1. Blake Griffin showed other sides to his game, looking actively to find open teammates and grab rebounds instead of scoring. Rather than take open shots himself, he ran the offense and waited for plays to develop, helping to build toward his nine assists. He seemed intent on getting others involved, especially Reggie Bullock, who had been struggling with his shot in recent games. After scoring one point in the first half, Griffin got going, but didn’t get close to a triple-double, after sitting from the middle of the third quarter on. Griffin was the only starter who didn’t score in double figures
2. Stanley Johnson had his second strong game. He had been struggling from 3-point range but in the past two games, seems to have found a better rhythm with the second unit, playing more in transition and free flowing with the offense in that group. He played more minutes as the power forward with the reserves and looked more comfortable than with the starters. Johnson may have found his role.
3. Bullock ended his shooting slump with 13 points, including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers. Sidelined by injuries for a week, Bullock returned to his better form, finishing with three 3-pointers. The key was getting hot early in the game and establishing a rhythm. From there, he was able to cruise, with a couple more baskets inside the arc. He’s a critical piece of their starting unit and if he can get back to last year’s form, with 45 percent from beyond the arc, the Pistons’ offense could click.
4. Langston Galloway continued his offensive onslaught, with another good shooting game, pouring in 16 points, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. He also has settled into a nice role, as the primary shooter on the second group. In just 24 minutes, he found a rhythm and Casey is lauding his defense as well. He’s gone from a forgotten entity last season to a dependable sixth man off the bench.
5. Drummond had another solid game but his energy and efficiency are becoming more apparent. He finished 10-of-15 from the field but also had a calm about the way he chose shots and attacked the rim. He also got more aggressive on the defensive end, totaling four blocks.