Drummond’s ninth 20-20 leads Pistons to third straight win as newcomers debut
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Three quick observations from Friday night’s 120-103 win over the New York Knicks at Little Caesars Arena
THREE STRAIGHT – A little bit of a scare, but the Pistons took care of business and racked up a win they had to get against a staggering opponent. They let the New York Knicks – losers of 14 straight at tipoff – erase a 21-point first-half deficit, tying the game at 80 late in the third quarter. But they had opened the lead back to 14 five minutes into the fourth quarter, aided by the Knicks going 2 of 9 at the foul line over that time. It was the third straight win for the Pistons, who went into the night 1½ games out of the final playoff spot. Andre Drummond had a 20-point first half, finishing with 29 points, 20 rebounds and three blocked shots. He was a jaw-dropping plus-39 in his 33 minutes. The Pistons scored a season-high 41 points in the first in building their big early lead. But a 13-2 Knicks run against a newly constituted bench unit forced Dwane Casey to start sprinkling his starters back into the mix. The Knicks were within nine at halftime and saw the deficit bumped back to 15 before rallying midway through the third quarter and eventually catching the Pistons. It was the first time the Pistons have won as many as three in a row since a five-game winning streak in late November and early December. Blake Griffin, who got to sit the entire fourth quarter for the second straight home game, finished with 26 points, six rebounds and four assists. Reggie Jackson added 20 points and six assists.
NEW LOOK – Langston Galloway was the choice of Dwane Casey to take Reggie Bullock’s spot in the starting lineup. That made the Pistons considerably smaller on the perimeter with Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown and Galloway lining up next to Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Luke Kennard, the other likely contender, would have offered a little more size than Galloway, but Kennard continued with the second unit, probably because Casey likes to run offense through rim when Blake Griffin sits. With Casey using Brown to guard Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr., that meant Galloway at 6-foot-2 had to guard Knicks forward Kevin Knox, giving up 7 inches to him. Brown had his hands full with Smith, who scored 19 in the first half and had 30 after three quarters. When the Pistons beat the Knicks in New York on Tuesday, it was Stanley Johnson who guarded Smith in the fourth quarter, holding him to two points on 1 of 5 shooting. Khyri Thomas got the call for the critical stretch in the fourth quarter on Smith when the Pistons put the game away. Smith scored just one point over a six-minute stretch, though he missed 5 of 6 free throws over that span.
WELCOME TO DETROIT – Didn’t take long for Dwane Casey to use his two newest parts. Thon Maker entered the game late in the first quarter for Blake Griffin playing alongside Andre Drummond. Svi Mykhailiuk came on two minutes into the second quarter playing power forward against a downsized Knicks lineup. Neither played in the second half until the 3:33 mark with the Pistons ahead by 21 points, though, as Casey pared his rotation from 12 to 10 after halftime until the waning minutes. Mykhailiuk showed his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays on his first touch, shoveling a deft interior pass to Zaza Pachulia for a layup. Mykhailiuk also played on the wing with Luke Kennard when Griffin re-entered the game midway through the second quarter.He finished with three points, hitting a corner three, a rebound and an assist in nine minutes. Maker had one rebound and missed his only shot, a tough baseline jumper, in his eight minutes.