Comeback Comes Up Short

20-point deficit cut to 3, but Golden State snaps 5-game Palace streak

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

White Hot – The Pistons came into Wednesday’s game on a defensive roll, having risen to No. 3 in the league in defensive field-goal percentage. They did nothing in the first half to betray their standing, holding Golden State to 40 points and 35 percent shooting to trail by two despite their own offensive doldrums. But Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went on a third-quarter tear, combing for 29 points. Thompson scored 19 in the third, making 5 of 6 3-pointers, as Golden State came up one point shy of matching its first-half output in the third quarter alone. The Pistons eventually cut a 20-point deficit to three with just over a minute to go but never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead in their 104-97 loss. Thompson (27) and Curry combined for 49 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the 3-point line.

BLUE COLLAR – Andre Drummond gave the Pistons life in both the first and second halves. Lawrence Frank sent him in earlier than usual, midway through the first quarter, when the Pistons fell 12 points behind. As much as anyone, Drummond was responsible for the Pistons pulling back within a point after one quarter, finishing the half with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks. When the deficit reached 20 in the second half after the torrid start for Thompson and Curry, Drummond came on to again help dramatically turn momentum. He played a season-best 31 minutes and put up 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

RED FLAG – As sizzling as Golden State’s backcourt was after halftime, Pistons guards never really got it going. Not until Kyle Singler hit a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter did Singler or Brandon Knight make a shot. That pair plus Rodney Stuckey missed their first 11 shots. Stuckey heated up in the second half to finish with 17 points to go with nine assists and four rebounds, but Knight and Singler had forgettable nights, combining to make just 2 of 16 shots and score seven points.

Whatever the Pistons become, Golden State will have played a significant role in the outcome. Twice in the last three drafts, the Warriors picked ahead of Detroit. In 2010, they selected Epke Udoh at No. 6 and left Greg Monroe for the Pistons. Two years later, Golden State took Harrison Barnes at No. 7 and left Andre Drummond for the Pistons, picking two spots later.

The book is pretty much closed on the 2010 draft, the Warriors having tossed Udoh into a bigger trade last year that centered around Andrew Bogut and Monta Ellis, a tacit concession that they erred in passing on Monroe.

Drummond gave them plenty more to think about Wednesday night with his longest NBA stint and perhaps his best game as a professional. In 31 minutes, Drummond gave the Pistons more than the 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots – he gave them life when they appeared lifeless in both the first and second halves.

“Andre brought really good energy to the game, played hard,” Frank said after giving Drummond more rope than he has all season. “I’m proud of him. He played well.”

The Pistons trailed 15-5 midway through the first quarter when Frank, alarmed at the lack of cohesion and energy from his starters, threw Drummond and Rodney Stuckey into the game. By quarter’s end, the Pistons trailed by just one, as Drummond provided six points, two boards and a block in six minutes on his way to an eight-point, seven-rebound first half.

It was a two-point deficit at halftime when Golden State’s backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – as central to the Warriors’ future as Drummond and Monroe are to that of the Pistons – went nuclear. Thompson scored 19 of his 27 in the quarter, Curry 10 of his 22, and they made 7 of 9 from the 3-point arc. The Warriors scored 39 in the third quarter after mustering just 40 in the first half.

“That was tough for us,” said Jason Maxiell, who has been the backbone of the improved defense that enabled the Pistons to go 6-5 over their 11 most recent games coming into Wednesday’s matchup and mount a five-game home win streak. “We fought back, but we should have come to the 3-point line. We are a no-paint team, but we’ve got to guard that 3-point line, also.”

“That backcourt,” Frank said, “one guy had 19 in the third, the other had 10 or 11. But 39 points – unacceptable. It’s a shame. The thing that was disappointing about the game, we just did so many things we don’t rehearse on both ends and it just started to steamroll on us. At least that fourth-quarter group was able to fight back and you’re in a great two-for-one situation, down five, with a chance. But it is just is very disappointing to have a third quarter like that on both ends.”

That fourth-quarter group mostly consisted of Drummond, Stuckey (17 points, nine assists, four rebounds) and Charlie Villanueva (11 points, all in the fourth quarter) with Frank searching for someone else to get going on a night his starting backcourt of Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler endured punishing droughts. Each made one basket, Knight in nine tries and Singler in seven.

Tayshaun Prince was brilliant with a season-high 24 plus five assists, but the rest of the starting lineup combined for five baskets and 20 points. All four players off Frank’s bench, meanwhile, scored in double figures and accounted for 53 of Detroit’s 97 points in the seven-point loss.

Nobody was better than Drummond, who made six of eight shots and was strong around the rim at both ends, playing hard possession to possession in the face of his heaviest workload yet.

“It was great, but we still lost the game,” he said. “I could play as many minutes as possible, but if we didn’t win the game it doesn’t mean as much. Coach has faith in me leaving me out there for some of those minutes to help our team get back. I bring a lot of energy to the floor. We made a lot of good streaks and comebacks during the game, but we ended up with a loss.”

Drummond played the last 16 consecutive minutes, coming on when Golden State’s lead had stretched to 15. It hit 20 on two Barnes free throws to open the fourth quarter, but the Pistons outscored them 34-17 over the next 11 minutes to pull within three on Prince’s triple with 1:08 to go.

“We should have never let it get that far to where we had to work that hard to get back,” Drummond said. “Moving forward, we need to just play our game.”

Moving forward, their game increasingly will revolve around Andre Drummond, just as Greg Monroe before him moved into a position of prominence. The Pistons at least have the Warriors to thank for that.