3-point shooters misfire, but Pistons check off other boxes on Casey’s to-do list in win at New Orleans
Layne Murdoch Jr. (NBAE/Getty)
NEW ORLEANS – How do you win when you can’t knock down the open 3-pointers that Dwane Casey’s offense continues to produce? Do just about everything else on his priority list.
The Pistons did those other things particularly well to win for the first time in 10 tries at New Orleans with a lot of help from Blake Griffin.
Griffin got them off and running with 20 first-quarter points on his way to 37. The Pistons committed just nine turnovers, allowed New Orleans only nine free-throw shots and held the Pelicans to just 22 3-point attempts despite the fact they launched nine in the fourth quarter as they momentarily erased all of a 13-point deficit only to see the Pistons regain the lead on their next possession and not give it up again.
“We limited turnovers – that’s huge for us,” Casey said. “Played defense with our chest and feet instead of our hands. No cheap fouls. Our second unit kind of let them back in, but we still hung in there and responded.”
Once Griffin established himself, New Orleans grew ever bolder in doubling him and sending a third defender his way to force the ball out of his hands. That produced a ton of open threes for their best shooters – Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway, in particular.
They combined to hit just 3 of 19 from the 3-point arc.
“Wide open. You can’t get any more open than what Langston and Luke and Reggie Bullock were,” Casey said. “We’ll take ’em. It just seems like the other teams are knocking down those shots. We’ve got to keep shooting them.”
“Me, Luke, Lang – all great shooters,” Bullock said. “We’re going to continue to keep shooting the ball. I know we probably won’t miss that many threes probably ever again this season. We all had great looks.”
They found other ways to help, though. Galloway put the ball on the floor to hit a runner seconds after Nikola Mirotic gave New Orleans its only lead since the first quarter on a triple with 7:42 to play to complete an 8-0 run. He grabbed a key offensive rebound on a possession that featured three of them and devoured more than a minute left, starting with 2:35 to play.
And Bullock iced the win by batting a loose ball ahead to himself and dunking to put the Pistons ahead by five with 14 seconds to go.
“I only had five points tonight, but with that steal and dunk, it made me feel like I had 20 something,” Bullock said. “Just trying to make plays for the team, make more threes, take a lot of pressure off of Blake, take pressure off the point guards.”
The Pistons hit 13 of 39 3-pointers and Griffin (4 of 9) and Reggie Jackson (4 of 7) combined to hit 8 of 16. Jackson had 17 points and Jon Leuer 11 and six rebounds off the bench. Of the first nine Pistons baskets, Griffin scored six and assisted on the other three.
“When he’s playing like that, it helps us a lot,” Leuer said. “He got into a rhythm and we just kept feeding him. When he’s in a rhythm like that, he’s unstoppable and we’re going to play off of him.”
Both teams were without key players – the Pistons missing Andre Drummond and Ish Smith for a third straight game, the Pelicans without MVP candidate Anthony Davis. The Pistons battled to a draw on the boards without Drummond and held the NBA’s No. 4 offense to 94 points.
“Some shots went down, we were getting stops, getting out and running,” Griffin said. “We moved the ball well, got some easy looks. It’s more a credit to how we were playing than anything else. Nice to get something going early and put some pressure on them.”
Griffin was reserved after the game, disappointed that the Pistons didn’t do a better job of preserving their lead and needed some fortunate bounces in the final two minutes – the possession that featured three offensive rebounds and the late defensive stop that ended with the ball bouncing out deep to Bullock. But he and Casey were encouraged by the defensive intensity and winning more than their share of battles for loose balls.
“That was huge,” Casey said. “Those offensive rebounds down the stretch. Huge 50-50 balls we have not been getting, we got ’em tonight.”
And got out of New Orleans with a win, something they haven’t been able to say in more than a decade.