Broom ball: Pistons surge past Raptors in fourth, sweep series
Detroit — The Pistons were able to break out the brooms — and not for spring cleaning.
After being swept last season, the Pistons turned the tables and completed the three-game season sweep of the Toronto Raptors, setting the stage for a potentially-intriguing first-round playoff matchup.
The Pistons surged ahead in the fourth quarter and came up big in the clutch, with a decisive 10-2 run in the final 2:38, brushing away the Raptors, 110-107, on Sunday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
With the win, the Pistons got their first season sweep of the Raptors since 2008-09. More importantly, they increased their lead in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Pistons are in sixth place, a game ahead of the Nets and three games ahead of the Heat, with 13 games to go.
“We played three really great games against one of the top teams in the East,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey, who led the Raptors to a four-game sweep over the Pistons last season. “They have every weapon … they’re a very good team. We played well and I thought we defended well.”
Blake Griffin had 25 points and eight rebounds, Reggie Jackson 20 points and four assists and Andre Drummond 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons (36-33), who finish the back-to-back at Cleveland on Monday night.
Kawhi Leonard had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors (49-21), who were without Kyle Lowry (ankle sprain) and Serge Ibaka (league suspension). It was the third straight close game between the two teams this season, but the Pistons found a way to prevail in each.
“We’ve done a good job of stepping up to the challenge, but wins are wins,” Griffin said. “I liked how we fought. They’re a good team with a bunch of great players, but we’ve done a great job against them.”
The Raptors led, 84-78, heading into the fourth quarter but the Pistons’ reserves provided momentum with a 7-0 run, opening with a three-point play by Zaza Pachulia (season-high 11 points) and back-to-back baskets by Langston Galloway (11 points).
That started a 14-5 run, with another two free throws each from Pachulia and Galloway and a 3-pointer by Griffin.
The Raptors regained the lead with a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Fred VanVleet, a dunk by O.G. Anunoby and a pair of free throws by Leonard. After a basket by Griffin and an answer by Pascal Siakam, the Pistons answered with another 10-2 spurt, gaining the lead after Drummond hit two free throws with 1:25 left and on the ensuing possession, Drummond got a steal and passed to Wayne Ellington for an easy lay-in.
Griffin finished the run with a spinning basket and Jackson added a pair of free throws, for a 108-102 advantage. They held on in the final minute, making 4 of 6 free throws for the final margin.
“Every game counts for us right now; we are in a playoff race,” Drummond said. “They’re a team that’s very, very good and we beat them three times in a row. Nothing to celebrate right now because we have a lot more games to go to finish off the season strong to get in good playoff position.”
► The reserve unit was good again for the Pistons, with some big contributions from some unlikely sources. The starters weren’t exceptional, but as has been the case for most of the recent streak, the reserves came up big with energy and contributed 39 points. Ish Smith came up big, with eight points, five rebounds and eight assists.
►Thon Maker and Pachulia were big off the bench, chipping in six points and seven points, respectively, in their stints in the first half. Pachulia scored six straight points and provided a presence in the middle, while Maker had a highlight-reel alley-oop from Luke Kennard:
Neither has been a consistent huge contributor in scoring but their contributions helped keep the Pistons close until the starters got their rhythm.
► Drummond and Ellington were in foul trouble early in the second quarter and had to go to the bench earlier than normal. The reserve group picked up the slack but it’s been a good combined effort between starters and reserves to keep things moving. Ellington had nine points and only picked up one more foul the rest of the game; Drummond didn’t get another foul.
► Drummond surpassed 1,000 rebounds for the sixth straight season, becoming the first Pistons player to complete that feat. He’s also the eighth NBA player ever to do it, strengthening the claim he has to being one of the best rebounders of this era.
► Griffin surpassed 13,000 career points and looked more spry, after he appeared to be wearing down in the previous few games. Casey said he remains concerned about Griffin’s high usage this season and how he’s looked in recent weeks, but it’s unclear whether there will be another rest day in the coming string of games.