'We cared': Pistons light it up, rout Hawks to snap five-game losing streak
Detroit — For the first few minutes, it looked like the Pistons were going to sink a little deeper into the hole they’ve been in for the past couple of weeks. They fell into another double-digit deficit in the first four minutes of the game, in a pattern that’s become all too familiar this season.
Then the 3-pointers started falling. A lot of them.
From a few different players.
Then the run happened, and the Pistons had control — and kept it — pushing to a 128-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena. The win ends their five-game skid and gives the Pistons some momentum head into Saturday’s road matchup against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
Blake Griffin had 24 points, three rebounds and three assists, Andre Drummond 23 points and 15 rebounds, Bruce Brown 14 points and seven assists for the Pistons (5-10), who had a season-high 76 points in the first half.
The huge run was a 20-0 spurt in the first quarter, started by Griffin’s two free throws and a 3-pointer from Luke Kennard (nine points and nine assists). Markieff Morris had eight points during the run and Drummond six.
The big burst came over a four-minute stretch and was the Pistons’ longest run since Nov. 8, 2015, when they had a 24-0 run at Portland, when Reggie Jackson topped 40 points.
That stretch turned a 17-7 deficit into a 10-point advantage, helping them finish the first quarter with a 33-23 lead.
The lead got to 17 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Derrick Rose and Griffin at the 8:05 mark. The Hawks (4-11) mounted a rally, trimming it to 56-45 after a dunk by Jabari Parker and later got it down to 10 on a Vince Carter 3-pointer.
Blake Griffin looked rejuvenated, with 24 points, three rebounds and three assists, Andre Drummond added 23 points and 15 rebounds and Bruce Brown 14 points and seven assists for the Pistons (5-10), who had a season-high 76 points in the first half.
It was their highest-scoring opening half since 1983, when they scored 77 against the Hawks on Dec. 2, 1983.
“It was an overall good, solid win. The ball was moving and we didn’t turn it over until the last few minutes,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That was our goal — to not turn the ball over. We got good shots and we’re such a good shooting team, if we get good attempts and not turn it over, that puts us in position to win.
“Our defense was solid. Bruce Brown did a heck of a job on Trae Young, who is a tough cover, and he did it without fouling.”
The game-changer was a 20-0 spurt in the first quarter, started by Griffin’s two free throws and a 3-pointer from Luke Kennard, who finished with nine points and nine assists. Markieff Morris had eight points during the run and Drummond six.
“We want to get stops first. That helped fuel our offense and then we took care of the ball — it’s very simple,” Casey said. “For whatever reason, it hasn’t clicked with us. maybe tonight will jump-start it.”
The big burst came took just more than four minutes and was the Pistons’ longest run since Nov. 8, 2015, when they had a 24-0 run at Portland, when Reggie Jackson had a career night with 40 points. That stretch turned a 17-7 deficit into a 10-point advantage, helping them finish the first quarter with a 33-23 lead.
The lead got to 17 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Derrick Rose and Griffin at the 8:05 mark.
“I just thought our pace was so much better, because we were better defensively. We cared about defense tonight,” Griffin said. “When you get some stops and get out and get easy buckets and see a couple go through, the rest fall in.”
The Hawks (4-11) mounted a rally, trimming the lead to 56-45 after a dunk by Jabari Parker and later got it down to 10 on a Vince Carter 3-pointer. Brown and Morris carried it into halftime, with four points each and Thon Maker’s hook and 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Pistons a 76-57 lead.
The Pistons shot 50 percent (17-of-34) beyond the arc and 60 percent (49-of-82) from the field, which ranked among their best nights of the season.
The 3-pointers continued to fall in the third quarter, with Langston Galloway hitting his first two to start the third quarter, part of a barrage of 3-pointers, including one by Griffin and another by Brown, pushing the lead to 90-65 at the 8:50 mark.
The Pistons took their largest lead, 100-72, after a floater by Drummond, with 5:04 left in the third quarter. They kept a comfortable lead the rest of the way and coasted.
Here are some other observations from the win:
►Griffin looked to find more of his quickness and mobility, flashing a couple of nice spin moves to the rim and two dunks in the second half. He was more efficient (9-of-16 on field goals) and made two 3-pointers. It’s his fourth game of the season and looked to be his best from start to finish.
“It was the bounciest I’ve seen him since he’s come back. He had juice; he had bounce, defensively and offensively,” Casey said. “When he saw that first 3 go down, that really gave him a lot of confidence.”
►Langston Galloway hit four 3-pointers and had an efficient 12 points in his second straight start. He played 27 minutes and had some good defense in his time. The second group has three players in the starting lineup, so the rotation is in flux, but Galloway has been a good addition in his time.
►Brown did a good job on both ends of the floor, with 14 points but more importantly, some solid defense on Trae Young, who had just nine points and eight assists in 32 minutes. He had five turnovers and Brown had a measure of redemption after Young exploded for 26 points in the first half in the first meeting.
“He was tired. I was picking up full court. I could tell he was tired and didn’t want the ball,” Brown said. “Last game I didn’t do anything; he was just playing off me and I didn’t score. Today was going to be different.”
►Christian Wood was productive in short minutes — 11 points in 12 minutes — and likely will get some extended run on Saturday against the Bucks, in the back-to-back.
Pistons at Bucks
Tipoff: 8 Saturday, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
Outlook: The Pistons get their first look at the Bucks, who swept them out of the playoffs last season. The Bucks (12-3) are on a six-game win streak and have the best record in the Eastern Conference.