Bullock, Kennard help Pistons shoot down Celtics, end 6-game skid
Detroit — The Pistons welcomed Reggie Bullock back to the starting lineup — and with it came a welcome back to the win column.
With the pairing of wings Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock together to open the game for the first time this season — their eighth different starting lineup this season — the Pistons looked like a different team.
That wing tandem accounted for 25 points, including 6-of-11 on 3-pointers, to help the Pistons end their six-game losing streak with a 113-104 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena. Bullock had 15 points and Kennard 10.
Blake Griffin had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Andre Drummond 19 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks and Langston Galloway 14 points for the Pistons (14-13), who won their first in three matchups against the Celtics this season. The win also snapped the Celtics’ eight-game winning streak.
“It was great but we haven’t done anything. We got some momentum now and we still have a tough team (the Bucks) coming in on Monday night and it doesn’t get any easier,” coach Dwane Casey said. “So we’ve got to enjoy it. I told the guys to enjoy it until midnight and think about some of the things we can do better.
“It’s a journey — a marathon — so you can’t get too high when you win.”
The journey was easier with the new tandem of Bullock and Kennard, which opened driving lanes and room to maneuver inside for Griffin and Drummond, as the Celtics had to respect the outside shooting.
“It just opened up the floor so much,” Griffin said. “You have to respect those guys from anywhere. They’re both capable of putting it on the floor, getting into a hole and making plays. So, it just gets us two more weapons that people have to be aware of.”
The Pistons had an 85-78 lead heading to the fourth quarter and looked to be in complete control after a 10-1 run over the first 3:23 of the period.
Drummond had a three-point play and Galloway added a putback, along with a jumper and free throw by Jose Calderon and a drive by Stanley Johnson to make it 95-79. The Celtics (18-11) bounced back with two free throws by Jayson Tatum (17 points and eight rebounds) and two more by Marcus Smart (21 points and eight rebounds).
Smart’s 3-pointer at the 4:28 mark was the Celtics’ first field goal of the quarter, after they had gone 8-of-12 on free throws in the first seven-plus minutes of the period. After a lay-in by Gordon Hayward, the Celtics were within seven.
The Pistons righted the ship with a 3-pointer by Bullock and four straight free throws by Griffin.
“It’s good to get a win. We’ll take it how we can get it,” Drummond said. “Guys stepped up and guys played really, really well tonight. I thought we earned that one.”
The Celtics got within seven in the final minute, but no closer, as the Pistons closed it out from the free-throw line. Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
1. With the changes in the starting group, the reserve unit had a bit of a makeover, too, with Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, Bruce Brown, Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer. The group had a solid second quarter, helping the Pistons extend the lead. The second group has been solid, even without Zaza Pachulia, who didn’t play because of flu-like symptoms.
2. For a change, the 3-pointers were falling for the Pistons. They went 7-of-14 in the first half — Bullock and Kennard were 3-of-6 — and the ball movement was better with the spacing created by having the two wings on the court at the same time. The Pistons finished 10-of-30 from beyond the arc but only 1-of-9 in the fourth quarter, which lowered their percentage.
3. With some consistent playing time in playing for Ish Smith, Jose Calderon has found a good rhythm as the backup point guard. He’s not a high-volume scorer, but he generally makes smart plays and finds the open man. Smith changes the pace and has improved on 3-pointers — which powers the second unit — but Calderon uses his basketball IQ to get to the rim and create easy baskets. He had five points and eight assists before fouling out.
4. The Celtics were on the second game of a back-to-back but the Pistons kept up the pace and after Boston struggled offensively in first seven-plus minutes of the fourth, the Pistons seemed to learn from losing the lead against the Hornets on Wednesday night. They got the ball in Jackson’s hands and he was able to make free throws in the final minutes. The shot selection was better down the stretch as well.
5. The Pistons defense, one of the best in the league at defending around the 3-point arc, held the Celtics to 27 percent (9-of-33) on 3-pointers. Boston was on a back-to-back so fatigue contributed, but the Pistons made a concerted effort, holding Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward to a combined 0-of-13 on 3-pointers. Marcus Smart was 5-of-7 but was the only starter above 50 percent.