Reserves key second-half surge, power Pistons to first preseason win

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Pistons' Bruce Brown looks for room around Mavericks' Maxi Kleber in the second quarter on Wednesday.

Detroit — The second time was the charm. The second preseason game, the second unit, in the second half.

The Pistons rallied from a 59-50 halftime deficit, tied it entering the fourth quarter and pushed ahead for a 124-117 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 124, Mavericks 117

After a sluggish start to the preseason, the Pistons put it together in the second half behind 19 points from Luke Kennard, 18 points and five assists from Derrick Rose and 17 points from Blake Griffin.

“In the preseason, we are looking to see what we are going to do. It’s not necessarily that we came back and won this game, but it was the way we played in the fourth quarter and at times in the first,” Griffin said. “I just like how we played. The outcome is great, but it’s preseason.”

The Pistons (1-1) outscored the Mavs, 38-31, in the final period with a boost from the reserve unit — Rose and Kennard — to move ahead. Kennard’s 3-pointer with 1:00 left in the third tied it at 86 and started a decisive 12-0 run that put the Pistons ahead by nine.

“In the second half, I thought we picked up and played the right way,” coach Dwane Casey said.

The Mavericks (0-2) answered with 3-pointers from Tim Hardaway Jr. (17 points) and Justin Jackson but Rose followed with a lay-in, Kennard added a 3-pointer and Rose converted an acrobatic three-point play for a 103-91 lead with 7:41 remaining.

Here are some observations from the matchup:

► The combination of Kennard and Rose dominated the fourth quarter, with Rose scoring nine points and Kennard eight. They went a combined 7-for-8 from the field, with Kennard’s two 3-pointers.

“When Derrick got tired with running pick-and-rolls, we went to Luke. Any time you have multiple ball handlers and pick-and-roll players, the way the game is played today, it’s huge,” Casey said. “Then at the same time, they can shoot it, which really gives you a different dimension and it helped us out.”

The pair will form the backbone of a good second group with chemistry that’s growing by the game. Rose has been very complementary of Kennard as the best young shooter he’s played around and seeing them jell will be one of the things to watch as the season progresses. 

► Andre Drummond is getting into midseason form — quickly. Early in the game, Drummond was out on the perimeter and initiating the offense, which is a reprise from the time when he was at his best, with assists to go with his boatload of points. He has that in his skill set and can create some additional offensive opportunities with his passing and vision.

He also was active on the defensive end, getting a block on former teammate Boban Marjanovic.

In the third quarter, Drummond had another sequence where he got a block on the defensive end and jetted down the court to catch a lob for an alley-oop from Bruce Brown. He’s been criticized often for his low energy level in games, but it was on full display Wednesday.

► Casey lamented the Pistons’ 20 turnovers in the preseason opener on Monday and after eight early in the game on Wednesday, it wasn’t an immediate turnaround. The first quarter was sloppy again, with some loose balls going out of bounds and other passes just off target. It’s still preseason and there will be plenty of rough edges, but it’s still an issue that they’re facing in trying to establish a rhythm and flow on offense.

“We still had 19 turnovers (Wednesday), and a lot of those were self-inflicted,” Casey said. “We’ve got to clean up a lot of those one-handed passes, hope passes, throwing things that are not there — so we will clean that up. I liked the intensity and focus we had in the second half.”

► Casey used a coach’s challenge for the first time this preseason, on a play in the third quarter. Luka Doncic drove to the basket and Brown looked to make a good defensive play blocking the ball but was called for a foul.

Casey signaled for the challenge and after a short review, the call on the floor stood. It’s going to be an evolving process in figuring out the new rule on coach’s challenges, but initially Casey has said he wants to lean on the players to give him an indication of what they think, without wasting the timeout. With only one chance to use a challenge in the game, the Pistons were without another.

► The Pistons had the same starting lineup that they did Monday, but Casey extended the minutes for the starters a bit. Griffin logged 27 minutes, much more than the 15 he had in the opener. Casey said pregame that he wanted to increase the minutes, with an eye on ensuring they were developing chemistry and erasing some of the sloppy play and mistakes.

► The Pistons had their hands full with the first appearance of the combo of Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists through three quarters and Porzingis had 18 points and seven rebounds. They’ll be a formidable duo for the Mavericks, which is finally paying off after the trade with the Knicks.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard