The Pistons are 13-7 in their first 20 games, after going 14-6 last season. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — The Warriors had their Big Three, with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Pistons had Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond — but also had a complete bench that was able to counter the three superstars. The Pistons’ reserve group proved to be the difference, outscoring the Warriors, 42-13, and controlling the Pistons' 111-102 victory from the end of the first quarter on.
Stanley Johnson started the push, with a 3-pointer in the first quarter and in the opening minutes of the second quarter, added back-to-back baskets, part of his 10-point contribution in the period.
The second-quarter surge helped build a 43-33 advantage, with a 19-6 spurt.
“It was huge. That second unit set the tone,” Griffin said. “Ish (Smith) did a great job in the third quarter and fourth quarter. When both units are playing like that, it makes it tough to beat us.”
One of the Pistons’ biggest improvements this season is understanding their roles and sticking to them, without trying to do too much and ruining the chemistry. It was the key on Saturday and through 20 games, it looks to be their calling card.
“That is so important that guys are understanding their roles, that guys are paying their roles and accepting that role, embracing it and being the MVP in their role. That’s so important,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “(It’s) understanding that it is a team game — it’s not about one player. Everybody’s got to do their job whether it’s screening, spacing, passing the ball, defending, whatever it is.
“Just make sure you do your job on each possession. When we win, everybody wins and when everybody plays their role and stays in their lane.”
It’s helping Stanley Johnson adjust to a bigger role with more minutes off the bench and he’s having one of the best stretches of his career.
For his part, Johnson says it’s more about creating good habits and being more consistent in following the lead of Griffin and Casey.
“It’s been a huge thing, buying into your role. Sometimes you have a night. Stanley had a night tonight and we rode that wave,” Griffin said. “We called it feeding the pig, the person is going to eat and get them the ball.
“That’s the type of team we’re going to be. If somebody’s got it going, we’re going to keep going back to them, but everybody’s playing within their role.”
It’s a new attitude for Johnson, who is becoming more of a dominant presence on both ends of the court, settling into a new role and focusing on doing small things instead of having to blend with Griffin and Andre Drummond.
So far, it’s working, with him coming off the bench and finishing the game, for his defensive prowess.
“It’s being fundamentally sound. It’s the difference from how we used to be and what we’re doing now,” Johnson said. “Just keeping with our stuff, our plays, our defensive sets and game plan.”
Back to work
The marquee game brought out some of the luminaries, including former Pistons champions Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton, who sat courtside. The pair who were part of the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons squad got an ovation when they were introduced on the scoreboard.
Hamilton also showed some appreciation for Pistons and the energy they’re creating in the arena, in a showdown against the Warriors.
“It means a lot,” said Johnson, who had 19 points off the bench. “A lot of those guys are people who I looked up to growing up. Our city has a culture — and they made it.”
Kennard back but sits
Luke Kennard was activated before the game early Saturday after playing with the Grand Rapids Drive on Friday. Kennard was available but Casey said that didn’t necessarily mean that he’d play — and Kennard was inactive.