Brown & Maker, blue-collar Pistons, lead second-half rally to topple Cavs
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – The Pistons are going to need Blake Griffin’s all-around brilliance, Andre Drummond’s rebounding dominance and consistent contributions from the likes of Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard to win often enough to get back to the playoffs.
And some nights, they’re simply going to need the blue-collar grind of their two guys with the deepest blue collars, Bruce Brown and Thon Maker.
Amid a lethargic night in a preseason game against the lottery-bound Cleveland Cavs, it was Brown and Maker at the core of a fourth-quarter charge that saw the Pistons complete a comeback from 19 down to win 109-105. The Pistons held the Cavaliers scoreless over their first eight possessions spanning nearly five minutes to get back in the game, then won it with some big plays from Brown in the final two minutes.
“Coaches kept getting on us. We weren’t playing with a lot of energy,” Brown said. “We were going through the motions a little bit. We’re not going to be able to win in the regular season like that.”
Brown was the only Pistons starter to finish in the black in plus/minus at plus-12, while Maker led all Pistons at plus-20. Brown was one of four players with 15 points to lead the Pistons – Drummond, Jackson and Rose were the others on a night Blake Griffin was rested – and he also gave them five rebounds and a team-high seven assists.
Coming off of his superb Summer League, when Brown played point guard and led the league in assists with eight a game, Brown showed his marked gains in ballhandling, decision-making and confidence.
“I think Summer League was big for me,” he said. “My confidence is way better than last year. I believe in myself and I know what I can do.”
“You can just see, he took a big leap,” Maker said of Brown. “The experience of him playing last season helped him out, as well. He saw what he needs to get better at, how to use his energy. His aggression, he’s using in the right way and his ballhandling has improved a whole lot. Corner threes, he’s going to get a lot of looks from there and he’s going to knock them down this year, as well.”
Maker is another who logged a productive summer, focusing particularly on his strength and perimeter skills, including ballhandling and his 3-point shot. He finished with seven points, 10 boards and three assists in 17 minutes.
“I can see the difference,” he said. “I can feel the difference when I’m out there, being able to box out, being able to come in verticality without getting pushed back and standing your ground in one-on-one defense. Then also just moving but on balance at the same time, I can see a big difference. Then on the offensive end, I’m able to get more offensive rebounds and be under control with them.”
Casey pleaded for strong starts to both halves and went 0-for-2. The Pistons fell behind 30-23 after one quarter, then got outscored 10-2 in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter to see their deficit swell to 18. One number that reflected the lack of ball movement and flow on offense: The Pistons, who averaged 35 3-point shots a game last season, shot just nine in the first half and 22 for the game. Seven came in the fourth quarter when they outscored the Cavs 31-15.
“We’ve got to have a better representation of how we want to play,” Casey said. “They dictated. Their guards dictated at both ends of the floor. We couldn’t get open offensively, couldn’t stop them defensively until we decided to. That (fourth-quarter) group played their behind off. That was the difference. Nothing fancy; just played harder.”