'We met the challenge': Wood helps Pistons edge Pacers for second win
Detroit — Christian Wood has had big games in the NBA. As he’s bounced around with five teams in five seasons, he’s made small sparks but hasn’t stayed with one team long enough to make a lasting impact.
Maybe the Pistons are that team.
Wood provided a sustained spark off the bench, with his first double-double of the season, helping the Pistons take a 96-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Both wins this season for the Pistons (2-2) have come against the Pacers, including a victory on opening night in Indianapolis.
Derrick Rose had an atypical offensive game — 4-of-16 from the field — but made the go-ahead basket with 28.3 seconds remaining and the Pistons held on, ending their two-game skid.
“Derrick had probably one of his worst games shooting wise, but he had the gumption and the experience to finish it with a game-winning shot and the confidence to keep playing,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “It was a gut check and that’s a good team.”
Wood finished with 19 points and tied his career high with 12 rebounds, Andre Drummond added 18 points and 18 rebounds and Bruce Brown 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Brown had started the first three games but came off the bench, as coach Dwane Casey shook up the starting lineup and replaced Brown with Kennard.
The Pistons didn’t trail until the final period, when the Pacers (0-3) used a 13-4 run to move ahead, 94-90. T.J. Warren (19 points, five steals) had seven points during the stretch, including a drive and a 3-pointer at the 1:42 mark. Kennard (14 points, four assists) answered with a 3-pointer — that hit the rim, then bounced twice before bouncing in — to pull Detroit within one.
The Pistons regained the lead on a driving lefty lay-in by Derrick Rose, who struggled with only 10 points — after averaging 25.3 in the first three games — but he found the right gear at the right time. Rose’s basket with 28.2 seconds left gave the Pistons the lead and the Pacers missed on their last three trips.
Kennard split a pair of free throws with two seconds left for the final margin.
“Defensively we met the challenge and held them to 41 percent,” Casey said. “They’re a very physical team and we met it.”
Wood had 11 of his points in the third quarter but played just two minutes in the final period. Casey was more concerned with defending Domantas Sabonis down the stretch in the fourth quarter and used Morris for that task.
It seems that Wood found a niche, though, and is looking for more minutes to show what he can do.
“It’s all about opportunities and I keep saying once the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to do the best I can to take advantage of that,” he said. “Once I started to get in a rhythm and coach got more comfortable with me on the floor and saw how the game was going and how I could help the team pull out the game, he gave me a little more time.”
Sabonis led the Pacers with 21 points and 14 rebounds, Myles Turner 16 points and five rebounds and Malcolm Brogdon 15 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.
Here are some observations from the game:
► The lineup switch worked in the first quarter, with the Pistons starting 7-of-7 from the field — including three 3-pointers — but they only led, 20-14, after the first five minutes. Kennard was 5-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers and he didn’t find his groove in the middle stretches but picked up the pace in the fourth quarter and made one last free throw.
► Frazier stayed in the starting group and provided some stability running the offense, with eight assists. He missed all four of his shot attempts but the determining factor of whether he stays in the starting group until Reggie Jackson returns is how the offense looked when he was on the floor. At least for this game, it was a net positive.
► Rose struggled offensively, going 4-of-16 from the field but his driving lay-in was a big injection down the stretch. He didn’t seem to have his trademark touch or make his midrange jumpers that have made him such a spark plug in the first few games. Monday’s game looks to be more of an anomaly.
► Wood was electric, shooting 8-of-10 from the field and made all three of his 3-pointers. He was able to stretch the floor and was an impact on the boards. He soaked up some of Thon Maker’s minutes (he played only 10 and didn’t score). That could be a rotation switch moving forward, as Wood has looked more energetic and effective and has paired well with Drummond.
► Markieff Morris and Tony Snell seem to have found their level, with eight points each. They don’t have to have monster games in order to be effective but they’re showing that when they have enough minutes, they can make shots and play good defense when needed.