Great first half, fantastic finish make up for dreary third quarter as Pistons beat Pacers
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Three quick observations from Friday night’s 108-101 win over the Indiana Pacers at Little Caesars Arena
ROSE-Y FINISH – Derrick Rose was having a pedestrian game – until the final two minutes. Rose produced buckets on three crunch-time possessions – a difficult turnaround, a pretty assist for a Blake Griffin triple, a floater – and the Pistons finished on a 7-0 run to post a gut-check win. The Pistons played one of their best halves of the season, exhibiting the physical toughness and identity Dwane Casey talked about before tipoff. They led by 11 and dominated in the time their starters were in the game. Then they played one of their worst quarters of the season, abandoning the same principles that built the lead. For all of that, the Pistons recovered to win a nail-biter, outscoring Indiana 37-26 in the fourth quarter. Rose was 5 of 15 before making his last two shots and finished with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. Rose put the Pistons ahead by two with 1:22 left on a tough turnaround but T.J. Warren (26 pints) answered with a shot every bit as difficult with 58 seconds remaining. Griffin hit his three from the top of the circle, where Rose found him after driving to the rim and pulling Indiana’s defense with him. Malcolm Brogdon lost his dribble under the basket to give the Pistons the ball back with 38 seconds to play and Rose hit an artful floater along the right baseline to push the lead to five with 18 seconds remaining. The Pistons won the season series with Indiana 3-1, finished with the Pacers in the season’s first 23 games.
DOMINANT DRE – After seven-plus seasons, Andre Drummond tends to get taken for granted. He made that impossible against the Pacers, especially in the first half. Drummond played the whole first quarter, which ended with the Pacers trailing 32-19. They were happy to see him sit to start the second quarter, scoring 17 points in 5:33 to pull within two points. The Pistons pushed their lead back to double digits upon his return. Indiana scored just 27 points in the 18:27 Drummond played in the first half, with the Pistons outscoring Indiana by 24 points while he was on the floor in that half alone. He finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds, two blocks and three steals. It was his 37th 20-20 game of his career and fifth 20-20 of the season but his first since Nov. 2, when he recorded his third in three games.
NO BLOWOUT THIS TIME – Good luck making sense of this stat: Coming into Friday’s game, the Pistons had the largest margin of victory (17.8 points) among all NBA teams even though they were six games under .500 at 8-14. The three teams on their heels – Milwaukee at 15.9, Dallas 14.9 and Miami 13.9 – were a combined 49-15. The first three Pistons wins of the season – over Indiana, Brooklyn and Indiana – came by nine, two and four points, an average of 5.0 per win. Their last five wins – over New York, Atlanta, Orlando, San Antonio and Cleveland – were by 20, 25, 15, 34 and 33 for an average of 25.4 per win. Their 14 losses came by an average of 9.5 points and included one by a single point, two by three points and four by six points. That margin of victory will tick down with Friday’s seven-point margin, but the Pistons will take it. In fact, it might rank as the season’s most satisfying win to date.