Dam finally bursts for Pistons as they storm back in 2nd half to crush Suns
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
AUBURN HILLS – It was a game the Pistons had to win but one they were in grave danger of losing. And Stan Van Gundy could see that stark realization casting a cloud over his team.
Trailing the lottery-bound and decidedly undermanned Phoenix Suns 63-53 with 6:56 left in the third quarter, Van Gundy burned his second timeout of the half.
“Everybody just take a breath,” he told them. “We’re playing hard enough defensively. Now we’ve just got to play offensively. Just play.”
Easier said than done for a team that had averaged 85 points and shot 39 percent over its past three games. And Van Gundy’s words didn’t take immediate effect. They turned it over on the next possession and saw the deficit swell to 12 when T.J. Warren drained a short jump shot.
The turnaround began 17 seconds later with a triple from a 23 percent 3-point shooter, Ish Smith, his first basket after six misfires. Jon Leuer had missed his first five shots, but he converted a three-point play on the next possession and the Pistons, finally, could take that deep breath Van Gundy advised.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a triple and then another to pull the Pistons within a point. Aron Baynes hit two free throws to close the quarter and put the Pistons ahead by two points.
Barely more than two minutes into the fourth quarter, they led by double digits. Over a span of 8:06, the Pistons – fresh off scoring 75 points in Friday’s loss to Toronto – scored 35 to go from 12 down to 11 up.
“We were trying to force things,” said Caldwell-Pope, who led the Pistons with 23 points and hit 5 of 9 from the 3-point arc. “We had wide-open shots and we just decided to drive the ball and force things. We started taking open shots and started moving the ball.”
“Pope came down, he made some shots and when he started doing that, the rim starts to look a little bit bigger for everyone,” said Baynes, who put up 13 points and career-high 17 rebounds. “That was definitely something that helped us and we needed to capitalize on that and we were able to.”
Baynes and Andre Drummond combined for 31 points and 35 rebounds.
“It’s hard to really argue with that kind of production,” Van Gundy said.
Drummond’s 18 and 18 is almost routine for him, but Baynes’ contributions often aren’t accurately reflected by the box score.
“If you really look over the last month, he’s been really good,” Van Gundy said. “His numbers weren’t great early in the year. We still played really well with him on the floor, but his numbers were not astounding. But the last month, I mean, the guy’s been terrific. Absolutely terrific.”
The win, coupled with Miami’s loss to Portland, lifted the Pistons back into the No. 8 playoff spot, tied with the Heat at 34-36 but ahead based on their 2-1 lead in the season series. The two teams meet at The Palace on March 28.
First the Pistons get four straight games on the road – all against teams currently out of the playoff picture: Brooklyn, Chicago, Orlando and New York. Does breaking out of the slump send them on the road on an offensive roll?
“That’s a tough question,” said Marcus Morris, who broke out of a deep personal shooting malaise – 4 of 28 over the past two games – with 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting. “We shot the ball well. Hopefully, we continue to play the right way and continue to make baskets.”