Pistons 'clicking,' hammer Wizards to win fourth straight
Detroit — The Pistons are getting on a roll at the right time. They have a chance to head into the All-Star break in a playoff position and make it an interesting chase in the final two months of the season.
After a disastrous December and January schedule seemed to sound the death knell for the season, they’ve turned things around in February.
The Pistons continued their hot play, with a 121-112 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the fourth straight win and fifth in the last six games for the Pistons (26-29), who moved within a half game of seventh place in the East after the Hornets lost to the Bucks — and within 1½ games of the sixth-place Nets, who fell at Toronto.
Andre Drummond scored a season-high 32 points — one off his career high — plus 17 rebounds and four steals and Blake Griffin added 31 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, their first game with each scoring 30 points as teammates.
The Pistons won the season series over the Wizards (24-33), who fell three games behind the pace for the No. 8 spot. More than that, the win kept the Pistons on their hot streak and inched them closer to moving up another spot in the standings.
“Everyone has just kind of settled in and they are clicking, playing within themselves,” Griffin said. “Reggie (Jackson) and Andre have been unbelievable this stretch; when they play like that, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Jackson finished with 16 points — including 4-of-4 on 3-pointers — and six assists.
The Pistons had a 90-81 lead entering the fourth quarter and pushed it to 13, their largest lead to that point, after a putback by Thon Maker and a driving scoop by Ish Smith with 9:43 left.
The Wizards (24-33) got on a roll, with a 3-pointer by Bobby Portis (24 points and five rebounds) but Wayne Ellington — making his Pistons debut — scored on a drive. Portis added another jumper, but Griffin ended the run with a 3-pointer, to push the lead back to 13.
Down the stretch, Portis hit three straight 3-pointers for the Wizards and they got within 117-109 with 1:15 left but Griffin added two more free throws and Jackson hit two more free throws after a drive by Bradley Beal (32 points, six rebounds and 10 assists).
The Pistons’ last game before the All-Star break is Wednesday at Boston
“We knew it was a big one for us,” Luke Kennard said. “Obviously, every one from here on out is an important one for us, but we’re 5-1 in the last six.
“We’ve got one more before the break and it’s just as important. We can’t take our break now; we’ve got one more to take care of.”
► Maker had the highlight of the night — a block on a dunk attempt by the Wizards’ Portis — and paid the price for it. Late in the first quarter, Maker got the block, but on another defensive play, where he took a charge, he took a shot and sustained a cut lip. He went to the locker room and was examined and got five stitches in his upper lip. He made himself more than a few new fans in just his second game with the Pistons.
“His lip is a little distorted but what a hustler that young man is,” Casey said. “I love the way he competes; his spirit is in the right place and he is about winning — it’s not about himself.”
► It was an inauspicious start for Ellington in his Pistons debut. In the first half, Ellington went 0-for-5 — all 3-pointers — but notched three rebounds and two assists. He was limited to 10 minutes, partially because he picked up his second foul and had to go to the bench. He scored his first points as a Piston on a drive at the 9:08 mark of the fourth quarter and finished with two points, four rebounds and two assists.
► Kennard was efficient off the bench, scoring 15 points and going just 4-for-7 from the field, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. He’s settled into a role as a playmaker among the reserve unit, providing another option in addition to Smith (seven points, four rebounds and four assists).
► The Pistons didn’t have the defensive presence of Stanley Johnson to guard the likes of Beal and Portis. That seems to be the biggest downside of the trade — losing their top defender and a player who could guard the other team’s best offensive player, regardless of position. That’ll be something they’ll have to overcome if they’re going to make a true playoff push.
► Drummond has been relentless in the past few weeks, getting a pair of 30-point games in the past week. He’s been a menace in the paint and when he’s focusing on shooting the shots in his skill set, he’s been very efficient and effective. He was 12-of-19 from the field and added 8 of 10 free throws, showing a big improvement in that those areas as well.