The Pistons were outscored, 34-21, in the second period, which proved to be the difference against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Oakland, Calif. — The Pistons lost focus for just a few minutes. Against the two-time defending-champion Golden State Warriors, that’s all it takes to turn a competitive game lopsided in a hurry.
The Pistons were staying with the Warriors in the first half, until a couple of defensive lapses in the second quarter and a finishing burst in the fourth quarter helped turn the tide.
The Warriors withstood a spirited comeback and put away the Pistons, 121-114, on Sunday night at Oracle Arena. It’s the second loss on back-to-back nights for the Pistons (37-36), who fell at Portland on Saturday.
The defeat also dropped the Pistons to seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, a half game behind the Brooklyn Nets and a game ahead of the eighth-place Miami Heat, both of whom were idle.
Blake Griffin had 24 points, six rebounds and eight assists, Luke Kennard added 20 points off the bench and Andre Drummond 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The second quarter, a 34-21 advantage for the Warriors (50-23) was the undoing.
Coach Dwane Casey was happy with the Pistons’ play in the other three quarters, but just that lapse in one quarter proved detrimental.
“Every team in the league goes through that. it tells you the type of defense you have to play on every possession because with this (Warriors) group, the basket is always open,” Casey said. “It shouldn’t be surprising but our execution for three quarters, but the second quarter is what bit us in the behind.”
It was the usual suspects for the Warriors (50-23): Steph Curry (26 points and nine rebounds), Klay Thompson (24 points) and Kevin Durant (14 points, five rebounds and 11 assists), who regained the top spot in the West playoff race, after the Denver Nuggets lost on Sunday.
The Pistons finish their western road trip — which is off to a 1-2 start — in Denver on Tuesday.
The Warriors had a 29-28 lead heading into the second quarter, after an 8-2 spurt to finish the first. They extended to 63-49 after a pair with an 18-6 run, with nine points by Draymond Green (14 points and eight assists), including a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
“They went on a run and got separation, then they went on another little run at the end of the third,” said Ish Smith, who had 14 points. “The second and the third is when you look back and you can say it was the difference-maker.”
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors looked to have a comfortable lead at 100-79, after a 3-pointer by Quinn Cook. Kennard answered with a 3-pointer and a drive and after a 3-pointer by Thon Maker (12 points) at the 9:30 mark, the Pistons were within 13.
They had another rally, with a lay-in by Langston Galloway and consecutive 3-pointers by Kennard and Maker, the Pistons closed to 110-101 with 5:38 left. Thompson answered with a jumper and Maker responded with another jumper, but Curry pushed the lead back to double digits with a 3-pointer.
The teams traded baskets with a jumper by Smith, but Thompson got another 3-pointer to push the lead to 13. The Warriors shot 61.3 percent for the game, their highest mark of the season.
The Pistons didn’t go away, though. Drummond hit a tip-in off a Smith miss and after Griffin split a pair of free throws, he hit a 3-pointer with 1:15 left to pull within 118-111.
The rally ended there, as Curry put the game away with a jumper in the final minute.
► Reggie Jackson’s normal rhythm has been to get a 3-pointer or two in the opening minutes of the first quarter when teams double-team Griffin. The Warriors didn’t need to double, defending Griffin straight up with Green. For whatever reason, Jackson didn’t get those early looks and struggled to find an early niche in the game, scoring just two points in the first half.
Pachulia makes his first trip back for a game back at Golden State and gets an honor and a video tribute. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
► Zaza Pachulia received his championship ring from his stint last season with the Warriors in a pregame ceremony. Thompson presented the ring to Pachulia, who was making his first trip back to Golden State for a game. He got a rousing ovation from the crowd at Oracle Arena, who appreciated his two years with the champions. Pachulia finished with four points and four assists.
“Very emotional,” Pachulia said. “I’m very thankful for everything that this team, this organization, this city had done for me and my family.”
► The Pistons had matchup challenges all over the court on defense, with Bruce Brown starting out guarding Curry, Jackson on Thompson and Wayne Ellington on Durant. The Warriors shot well from all over the court in the first three quarters and had their choice of open shots, hitting more than 60 percent for the entire game.
► Langston Galloway is rounding out his game with some strong play on the inside. He had 12 points but three of those field goals were inside the arc, with nice finishes at the rim on drives. It’s making him less predictable and defenders aren’t used to seeing that part of his game.
► Kennard was much more assertive in finding his shot and fueled the Pistons’ fourth-quarter effort with 10 points. He also had a 4-point play in the third quarter and followed with a jumper, helping to keep the Pistons in it when the Warriors were starting to pull away.