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