5-game road losing streak ends with a bang as Drummond dominates Nets

Andre Drummond was dominant with 22 points and 20 rebounds as the Pistons routed Brooklyn to snap a five-game road losing streak.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

NEW YORK – When Stan Van Gundy analyzed what he had on the roster he inherited nearly four years ago, he looked at the lump of clay that was Andre Drummond and envisioned what he put into evidence in Wednesday’s 34-point romp at Brooklyn.

The balletic feet, that massive frame and those huge, soft hands, Van Gundy knew, gave Drummond a chance to be a dominant player and certainly a high-impact defender in addition to the overpowering rebounder he’d already become as a 20-year-old.

In particular, Drummond could be kryptonite to the staple of every NBA team’s offense, the pick and roll.

And that is precisely what he was in the 114-80 win over a Brooklyn team that had been highly competitive of late, going 2-3 in its last five games with wins over Minnesota and Orlando and narrow losses – by two and three points to Boston, by one in overtime to Toronto – against Eastern Conference powers. The Pistons snapped a five-game road losing streak with the win and raised their record to 22-18 one game shy of the season’s halfway point.

“He’s unbelievable when he’s up,” Ish Smith said. “He’s probably got the best hands as a big man. Eric (Moreland) has great hands defensively. So when those guys are up and they’re playing it that way, it makes it so much easier for us and it makes it so much more difficult for the guards. Spence has been playing unbelievable and so when you stop his initial thrust and make him pass it or make him go another way without going downhill, it makes your defense so much better.”

“Spence” would be Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Van Gundy’s first draft pick, taken 38th overall in 2014 after his junior year at Colorado, which ended with Dinwiddie tearing his ACL. Over two seasons with the Pistons, Dinwiddie flashed some of the package that induced the Pistons to draft him – great size, vision and passing skills – but never seemed sure of himself. He was waived early last season by the Bulls after a minor trade and picked up by the desperate Nets, who lost starter Jeremy Lin for the season with a knee injury in this season’s opener.

Dinwiddie came into the game on a major roll, averaging nearly 26 points over his last three games. But with Drummond a suffocating presence every time Dinwiddie tried to turn the corner around a pick, the Nets guard found himself picking up his dribble, pinned near the sideline, about 30 feet from the basket.

“Spencer does a great job of finding his teammates and getting them the ball in the right spots,” Drummond said. “So, really, my job was to get up into him and make him throw tough passes and allow the big man to make those decisions. More times than not, it was either a turnover or a tough pass to the guard. I think I did a pretty good job of making him uncomfortable in the pick and roll.”

Yeah, in the way Steph Curry is a pretty good shooter or Picasso pretty good with a brush.

With Brooklyn’s initial pick-and-roll action rendered null and void but only after eating up half the shot clock, the rest of those defensive possessions became infinitely easier for the Pistons to carry out.

“First off, it gets teams out of what they’re trying to run and on top of that it just gives us more aggression on the defensive end,” Harris said. “When Dre does it – we did it vs. Houston, also, even when he wasn’t playing – when our bigs are up and aggressive and locked in defensively, we’re a really good team.”

Drummond and Harris took care of all the offense the Pistons needed, too, running a 4-5 pick and roll that Brooklyn couldn’t solve. Both finished with 22 points, Harris on 14 shots and Drummond on 15. Drummond added 20 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in 31 minutes. He and the rest of Van Gundy’s starters all got the fourth quarter off, a welcome break amid a road-heavy schedule grind.

It wasn’t quite a rout from the opening tip. Brooklyn led by four early and the game was tied at 24 when Van Gundy called timeout with 2:18 left in the first quarter. Four minutes into the second quarter the Pistons led by 17 after a 22-5 run.

“I thought our defense was outstanding tonight and everybody was involved,” Van Gundy said. “We got everybody doing their job. I thought Andre and Eric on pick-and-roll defense put a lot of pressure on the guards and made it really tough. Our perimeters did a good job pulling in and taking the roll and for the most part getting back out to the shooters. Early in the game I think they got some really good shots, but after that I think we even made it tough for them to get good shots.”

It started with Andre Drummond, the only player left from that roster Stan Van Gundy inherited back in the spring of 2014.

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 114-80 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center

1-DRE THE DOMINATOR – Andre Drummond’s first half surely will go down as one of the best of his six-year NBA career – and his full game wasn’t too shabby, either. Drummond had 18 points and 13 rebounds by halftime – plus two assists, two blocks and two steals – but what the box score didn’t show was his smothering defense on Brookyn’s pick and rolls. He finished with 22 points and 20 rebounds to go with five assists, two blocks and two steals despite not playing in the fourth quarter, finishing with 31 minutes played, as the Pistons emphatically snapped a five-game road losing streak by ripping the Nets. Rebounding had been an issue of late for the Pistons, getting outrebounded in their last six games and by an average of 7.3 per game. But they dominated the Nets 54-35 and didn’t allow a Brooklyn offensive rebound until the fourth quarter. The Pistons shot 51.6 percent and committed just eight turnovers in the first three quarters before the mixing and matching of lineups commenced amid the rout. Early in the fourth quarter, the Pistons grew their lead to 40 points before both benches emptied. Tobias Harris matched Drummond’s 22 points, hitting 10 of 14 shots in only 26 minutes.

2-GETTING HEALTHY – Stanley Johnson, who missed the past five games with a strained hip flexor, returned and played 20 minutes. Like a lot of young players, Johnson seems to struggle to find a comfortable rhythm after missing time. He missed all three of his shots, though he collected five rebounds and contributed to a superb all-around defensive effort. With Johnson back, the Pistons went 10 deep in the rotation after Stan Van Gundy had pared it to nine in recent games with Langston Galloway the odd man out. Johnson played small forward behind Reggie Bullock with Luke Kennard playing behind Avery Bradley. Dwight Buycks continued his impressive run at point guard, finishing with 17 to set a career high for the second time in the past week. In nine first-half minutes, the Pistons outscored Brooklyn by 21 points with Buycks on the floor. Kennard finished with 13 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.

3-HELLO, SPENCER – It’s been a while, but the Pistons weren’t the clear loser in the battle of injury lists this time. Brooklyn played without two starters, power forward DeMarre Carroll, its leader in minutes player per game, and shooting guard DeAngelo Russell. The good news for the Nets was the availability of Allen Crabbe, second on the team in minutes played, after he initially listed as doubtful with a shin injury. Crabbe was Brooklyn’s best offensive weapon, finishing with 20 points and hitting 5 of 9 triples. Brooklyn also lost its expected starting point guard, Jeremy Lin, one game into the season – and for the season – with a ruptured patellar tendon. Ex-Piston Spencer Dinwiddie, Stan Van Gundy’s first draft pick after being named Pistons president of basketball operations in 2014, has taken over for Lin and came into the game averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 assists. Dinwiddie has developed into a league-average 3-point shooter (36 percent) while taking more than half of his 11 shots a game from the arc. In the three games prior to meeting the Pistons, Dinwiddie had averaged 25.7 points and 6.7 assists. He had none of that success against his first NBA team, scoring two points to go with three rebounds and three assists on 1 of 5 shooting in 26 minutes.

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