Drummond sparks Pistons to third straight win
Detroit — The Pistons after Thursday’s trade deadline look as good as the team before. They played the same New York Knicks team Tuesday and Friday
It was the same result.
That’s not saying much against the Knicks, who have the NBA’s worst record, but the Pistons will take any win they can get in their push for the playoffs.
After getting a 13-point win at Madison Square Garden, the Pistons followed it up with a convincing, 120-103 victory on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Andre Drummond had a season-high 29 points and added 20 rebounds and three blocks, Blake Griffin added 26 points, six rebounds and four assists and Reggie Jackson 20 points and six assists for the Pistons, who have their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 1, when they had a five-game stretch after beating the Golden State Warriors.
“Consistency is what we’re fighting for. I’m glad we’re winning but we want to continue to fight for consistency on all fronts: offensive, defensive, effort, focus, — whatever it is, that is what we are fighting for,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Just like the first part of the season, we won so many games in a row, then we went into a dip.
“So, let’s fight for it; fight for consistency.”
The Pistons improved to 25-29 and moved within a game of the Miami Heat — who played at Sacramento later Friday — for eighth place in the East.
The Pistons led by 21 early in the second quarter, following a 9-0 run bridging the first and second quarters. The Knicks (10-45) answered with a 15-2 run and shaved the lead to 45-37, after a jumper by Dennis Smith Jr.
Luke Kennard (12 points) hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to stem the tide. The Pistons had a 63-54 lead at halftime, but the Knicks rallied in the third quarter, when Smith scored 13 of his career-high 31 points, helping a rally that tied it at 82 with 2:19 left in the period.
The Pistons answered with a 7-2 run to enter the fourth with an 89-84 margin.
They added another 5-0 spurt, with a free throw by Drummond, a jumper by Kennard and a pair of free throws by Ish Smith (11 points) to make it a 10-point lead.
Casey credited Drummond’s energy in the second half with providing a spark and he hit the boards and played better defense down the stretch, with seven points and 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.
“It definitely starts with energy first, just coming out and getting my guys going early on the defensive end,” Drummond said. “I try to get early stops and blocked shots to get our team energized; the rest is history from there.”
With the large margin, Griffin was able to rest the entire fourth quarter, for the second time in recent weeks, alleviating some of the wear-and-tear.
“It’s great. Beyond the wins, we’ve played with the right spirit and played the right way,” Griffin said. “Basketball gods reward you when you play the right way.
“Being able to take the fourth quarter off has been really nice, especially at this time of the season.”
Smith added eight assists and DeAndre Jordan 14 points and 11 assists for the Knicks (10-44), who lost their 15th straight game.
1. Even after the Reggie Bullock trade opened a spot in the starting lineup, it didn’t mean that Luke Kennard was automatically going to get it. Coach Dwane Casey opted for Langston Galloway in the first five, with Kennard coming off the bench. Galloway finished with five points, as they looked to find other options from the wing position.
2. Thon Maker had an inauspicious debut, entering at the 2:12 mark of the first quarter. He played eight minutes and didn’t score, with a rebound and a personal foul. Maker didn’t have any practice time with the team but went through the walkthrough on Friday afternoon. With only two more games — Monday against the Wizards and Wednesday at Boston — they’ll have more practice time before the All-Star break so that the new players can get acclimated.
3. Svi Mykhailiuk also had a cameo appearance in his first game, getting 10 minutes and registering three points, a rebound and an assist. He missed his only shot attempt in the first half, but had a late 3-pointer and a nice assist to Zaza Pachulia for a lay-in. Like Maker, Mykhailiuk looked to be just picking up some of the plays and unsure where he belonged.
4. Reggie Jackson continued to impress with his reenergized play in the past couple of weeks. He went 4-of-5 on 3-pointers in the first half and continued to show that he can get in the lane and create his own shot, hitting a few floaters and attempting a few mid-range shots that weren’t falling a few weeks ago. It’s a big development for their playoff hopes, to have him playing at near-peak level.
5. Drummond played with excellent energy on both ends of the court, protecting the rim on defense and settling for mostly good shots on offense. He was efficient, going 12-of-15 from the field and showed some deft touch around the rim. He’s cleaned up his game in the past few weeks and has found a good groove on pick-and-roll plays with several of the guards.