Ho-hum: another comeback win from double digits as Pistons win at OKC

Andre Drummond had a huge second half as the Pistons came back from 11 points down to win at Oklahoma City.
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by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – When the Pistons came off their perfect 5-0 home stand, whatever euphoria they might have felt was blunted by a peek at their schedule. Nine of their next 11 games were on the road. Among the two teams with sub-.500 records of those 11 opponents was Oklahoma City.

It was tough to pick out where the wins would come.

The Pistons aren’t out of the woods yet, but they’re 2-3 so far – both comeback road wins from 11 points down in the second half five days apart at Minnesota and Oklahoma City. Friday’s was much like Sunday’s in that it hung in the balance until a star player’s winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer spun out – Jimmy Butler at Minnesota, Russell Westbrook at Oklahoma City.

“It’s huge,” Ish Smith said. “Huge. We’ve been resilient all year. Felt like the Minnesota game. We just kind of hung around and they don’t knock us out. We just kind of did a standing eight count.”

“It’s great,” said Reggie Jackson, who hit two free throws with 34 seconds left to put the Pistons ahead by three points. “We started off hot. We know we have one of the toughest stretches in this span in the league. We know we’ve got a lot on the road against great playoff teams from last year. Going into these buildings is going to be tough, but as long as we stay together and we stay with the same camaraderie and we keep picking each other up, we’ve got a great chance. But it’s always great to get a win on the road.”

Oklahoma City has been a dichotomous team, winning blowouts – 7-0 in games decided by 10 or more points – but losing every close game. Friday’s loss left the Thunder at 0-9 in games decided by eight points or less.

The Pistons were teetering on the verge of having it be one of those blowout losses when they fell behind by double digits in the first quarter. What disappointed Stan Van Gundy most about the first half?

“Where I was upset and talked to our team was our rebounding,” he said. “It was 14-0 second-chance points in the first half and we’re down 10. That’s the game. And that’s controllable for us. I thought we fought a lot harder in the second half. We had 14 turnovers in the second half, so it’s not like we played great. But we fought really, really hard. That’s what ended up getting us the win.”

Nobody embodied the first half-second half schism more than Andre Drummond. He had four points and two rebounds at halftime, 13 and 12 in the second half when he played all 24 minutes.

“Coach came in and I don’t want to say the specifics of what he said because there might be a lot of words you guys can’t bleep, but he got us going,” Smith grinned. “He was telling us they were manhandling us on the boards and Dre, that’s what he does. He’s the best rebounder in the NBA, so he took that personal and the second half was history.”

Smith was the strongest of a bench unit that outscored its OKC counterparts 35-13. Langston Galloway hit two triples and Smith a driving layup early in the fourth quarter to give the Pistons their first lead and another Smith layup, this one with 8:27 left, put the Pistons ahead for good – but never by more than four points.

Luke Kennard and Avery Bradley hit subsequent big 3-point shots, both to put the Pistons ahead by four. Bradley’s came with two minutes to go. Russell Westbrook’s driving layup with 28 seconds left pulled the Thunder within a point and they had the chance to win after Jackson missed a runner, OKC getting the ball back with five seconds to play.

Bradley, guarding Westbrook, knew what was coming.

“They actually ran the same play they ran before when he drove to the basket and I had a feeling they were going to do it,” Bradley said. “I just told myself I’m not going to let him go to the basket this time. Force him to take a tough shot.”

He did and, just like Butler five days earlier, it missed and the Pistons had a precious, precious win amid a stretch where every win is one they hold closely to their hearts.

“You’ve got to fight and you’ve just go to dig out a couple and stay in it,” Van Gundy said of the perilous stretch of games his team is amid. “Yeah, it was a huge like. Like the Minnesota game. Our guys fought hard. That was all I talked about at halftime. I just thought our commitment to trying to get the job done was a lot higher in the second half.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Monday night’s 118-108 win over the the Boston Celtics at TD Garden...

1-ANOTHER BIG NOTCH – The Pistons are putting up a lot of signature wins before the NBA season hits the quarter pole. Chalk up a road win over the NBA’s hottest team, Boston, and put it up there with wins at Golden State and Oklahoma City and the seven comebacks from double-digits deficits. No surprise that this one went down the final minute. In an insanely good game between the teams that entered the night first and second in the Eastern Conference standings, of course it went down to the wire. That’s the way it should be and that’s the history of this series. Over the past 10 meetings at Boston Garden, the average score was Pistons 104, Celtics 103.9, reflected in the shooting percentages: Pistons 43.7, Celtics 43.4. And it was tied after three quarters at 86, tied at 100 with five minutes left. Another constant has been Andre Drummond’s dominance, which certainly continued apace. Over his past 15 games against the Celtics, Drummond – usually operating against smaller frontcourts – averaged 19.0 points and 16.2 rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent and recording double-doubles in all but one game. In 14 of those games, he’d recorded a double-double and he made it 15 of 16 on that score by halftime, finishing with 26 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Tobias Harris finished with 31points to lead the Pistons, hitting 5 of 6 3-point shots. The Pistons survived a 16 of 33 shooting night from the arc by Boston, including Marcus Smart’s 6 of 9 outing.

2-FAMILIAR FACES – Avery Bradley’s return to Boston started with a video tribute to him during Pistons pregame player introductions, ending with a “Thank You, Avery Bradley” message. Bradley was a big part of the Pistons early onslaught with six points and three assists in the first 10 minutes. He hit the game’s first basket and the pregame ovation turned to a smattering of boos. On the other side, the Pistons saw two old friends, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. Bradley, who shadowed Kyrie Irving for pretty much every possession as Stan Van Gundy manipulated his substitution pattern to facilitate that matchup, finished with 13 points and five assists and helped hold Irving to 18 points and 6 of 16 shooting. Morris had 13 for Boston and made 3 of 5 triples. Baynes helped the Celtics get Andre Drummond somewhat under control when he came into the game, grabbing four rebounds in seven first-half minutes and finishing with six points and six boards..

3-OFFENSE HUMS – Boston came into the game with the league’s clear No. 1 ranked defense, but the Pistons got great shots most of the night in rolling to the highest-scoring game this season against the Celtics. Nobody had scored 60 points in a half against Boston this season. The Pistons did it in the first half, then came back with 58 more in the second. It helped that they played an immaculate game, turning the ball over just eight times. In rolling to 31 first-quarter points and a dominant performance from Andre Drummond. He had six points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the quarter, grabbing all but three of Boston’s 13 missed shots. The Pistons shot 52 percent over and hit 11 of 25 (44 percent) from the 3-point arc. Drummond hit 10 of 12 shots, Reggie Jackson (20 points, seven assists0 hit 7 of 10 and Tobias Harris got his 31 points on just 16 shots, making 11.

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