Detroit — The Pistons have found their smooth air, it seems.
After struggling for much of the season to find a level of consistency, they look like they’re settling in with one of their best stretches.
After the emotional overtime victory on Sunday over the Raptors, the Pistons followed it with a dominant performance, blowing past the Timberwolves, 131-114, on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
The win is their third straight and 10th in the last 12 games, helping them keep pace for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, just percentage points ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, who also won Wednesday.
It also pushed the Pistons (32-31) over .500 for the first time since Dec. 19 — when they also beat the Timberwolves, in Minnesota.
Andre Drummond was dominant, with 31 points — one off his season high and two off his career high — along with 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Luke Kennard continued his sizzling stretch with 21 points and Ish Smith added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists to bolster a bench effort that accounted for 70 points.
“The second unit did a great job coming in and changing the game. Ish was a plus-28 and Luke was a plus-29,” coach Dwane Casey said. “They basically changed it. Our starters were playing in the mud and I told them that they owed us one.
“I think they thought the game started at 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. but again, the second unit did a great job of coming in and giving us a spark.”
The Pistons trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, but they came storming back and tied it at 55 on a 3-pointer by Wayne Ellington (11 points), then moved ahead on Luke Kennard’s jumper, completing 14-2 run, but the Timberwolves (30-35) led at halftime, 64-60.
Drummond scored 14 of his points in the third quarter, helping get the lead to 90-88 heading to the fourth.
“Our guys from the bench did an excellent job and picked up the slack when we started off slow; they came in and played excellent,” Drummond said. “We need them to play like that each and every night.”
The bench took over from there, spearheading a 25-5 run to start the fourth and putting the game away, with a 9-0 run in the first 83 seconds.
“Not just Langston, but Ish broke his guy down and drove and got Langston a 3 and Glenn (Robinson III) got the dunk,” Blake Griffin said. “All that’s huge. That second unit was unbelievable today.”
Drummond had a run-in with the Timberwolves’ Taj Gibson, after a hard foul under the basket. On the replay, Gibson appeared to hit Drummond with an elbow to the throat and Drummond tumbled to the floor. He got up and went after Gibson but had to be restrained by several of his teammates.
After review, officials assessed Gibson a flagrant-2 foul and he was ejected from the game at the 10:07 mark of the fourth. That helped fuel the decisive run with two free throws, followed by a 3-pointer from Thon Maker.
1. The Pistons bench again put the game away in the fourth quarter, with a 28-5 run to start the fourth. They dominated after holding a slim lead, 90-88, after the third quarter, with 3-pointers by Kennard and Langston Galloway and a reverse dunk by Robinson III as an exclamation point. They scored the majority of the points (70) and had the game in control in the fourth quarter.
2. Galloway stayed late after Sunday’s overtime win over the Raptors to get up some extra shots, likely frustrated by his up-and-down shooting. He came back on a mission, hitting all three of his 3-pointers and finishing with 11 points in 20 minutes. His contributions were big, especially during the decisive run.
3. Griffin had a rare single-digit game in scoring with nine — his first since scoring just six against the Hawks on Nov. 9 — but he added six rebounds and seven assists. With Drummond’s dominance in the paint, Griffin was able to defer and augment what the team needed from him.
4. The Pistons continue to play well at home and in their final 19 games, will have just eight more games at Little Caesars Arena. The crowd was loud and raucous — a very good turnout for a weeknight (15,240) — and were engaged in the game almost from start to finish, providing good energy.
5. Former Piston Anthony Tolliver made his first return to Detroit after signing with the Timberwolves in the offseason. He got a smattering of applause as he was introduced when he entered off the bench, but he hit his first shot — a 3-pointer, of course — and chipped in 10 points in the second unit for Minnesota.