Huge night for Drummond, huge win for Pistons as Bradley returns to Boston
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BOSTON – If there’d been a recipe to the Pistons winning twice as often as they’d lost through the season’s first 18 games, it was the art of the comeback. Seven of those 12 wins saw the Pistons roar back from double digits down.
Not needed this time around. The Pistons punched holes in the NBA’s No. 1 defense and beat the league’s best team on its home floor. The Celtics hadn’t given up 60 points in a half this season. The Pistons almost did it twice in the same game, following up their 60-point first half with a 58-point second half in a 118-108 victory to go to 13-6, the Celtics slipping to 18-4.
“It was an amazing game,” said Tobias Harris, who helped make it so by scoring 31 points and draining 5 of 6 3-point shots. “We said before the game we needed to embrace the challenge. I don’t think as a team we really embraced the challenge when we played (Cleveland, last week). We wanted to come out here and show what we really are about as a team.”
About flawless is what they were. Andre Drummond put up 26 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals – including a dagger with three minutes left when he intercepted a Marcus Smart inbounds pass at half court, roared in for a dunk, absorbed a Kyrie Irving foul and sunk the free throw to put the Pistons up seven points.
“I think that probably kind of deflated them when I got that steal,” he said. “To get that steal, to finish the play, to get the and-one was huge.”
The Pistons and Celtics posted nearly identical shooting stats – the Pistons 51.8 percent overall and 44 percent from the 3-point arc, the Celtics 51.9 percent and 48.5 percent from three – but the difference was free throws (19 of 23 for the Pistons, including 6 of 8 for Drummond) and turnovers. The Pistons coughed it up just eight times, the Celtics 17 – with the Pistons converting those errors into 26 points.
“We know we beat a really good team,” Stan Van Gundy said. “You beat a team on their home court, who’s 18 and 3, it was just a really good win. I thought from an offensive standpoint, that’s the best we’ve played all year relative to that’s the best defensive team in the league and we were able to consistently get good shots.”
How were the Pistons able to carve up the Celtics, who’d allowed opponents to score over 100 points only four times since opening the season 0-2 and hadn’t given up more than 108 yet?
“Just Coach getting us prepared before the game and us going out there and executing our game plan,” said Avery Bradley, who scored 13 points in his first game against the franchise where he spent his first seven NBA seasons. “We wanted Dre to set screens and roll and open up the floor for us and he did that on a consistent basis. It was a great team win.”
Bradley’s more significant contribution to the win came at the defensive end, where Van Gundy kept him matched up with Kyrie Irving. Irving finished with 18 points and nine assists but shot just 6 of 16 and was harassed into six turnovers.
“Avery did as good a job as you can do on a great player in Kyrie,” Van Gundy said. “He was right there with him all night.”
It was also a quasi-homecoming for Drummond, who grew up in Celtics country in nearby Connecticut. He’s always put up big numbers against Boston – 14 double-doubles in 15 games coming into Monday – but his performance this time was on another level.
“Andre was unbelievable tonight,” Ish Smith said. “He was special. I looked up one time and I think he finished with 26 and 22. I’m not even good in 2K, but I guarantee you if I play 2K with him I could not get those numbers. He was special. Really good him coming back home and getting this win for him.”
“That might be the best game he’s played overall, both ends of the floor, since I’ve been here,” Van Gundy said.
“Probably agree with that,” Drummond said. “Tonight was just a great night overall for all of us. We really wanted to beat these guys so we gave ’em our best shot and came out with a win.”
The Pistons led by 11 in the first half, but most of the game saw them up by single digits and every time it inched closer to double digits the Celtics came back, usually with the 3-point shot. Marcus Smart, not typically someone scouted for his 3-point threat, hit 6 of 7 before missing two late ones with the Celtics in scramble mode. Boston was 16 of 33 for the game from deep.
Which only made the fact the Pistons wound up winning on the home court of the team head and shoulders above the crowd over the first quarter of the season all the more impressive.
“Great win for us,” said Reggie Jackson, who on another night might have been the star of the game for scoring 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting to go with seven assists and only one turnover. “Now we’re going to have to put it behind us.”
The last time the Pistons trailed, 100-99, Celtics coach Brad Stevens broke out the Hack-a-Dre strategy, sending Drummond to the foul line with 5:36 to play. He made one to tie it, the Pistons forced a missed jumper from old friend Marcus Morris and Drummond scored on an artful layup around Al Horford to put them ahead for good after that.
“They’ll remember it,” Drummond said of fans who witnessed a game played amid a playoff atmosphere. “It’s one of those memorable games. We came in, beat the number one team by a good amount of points. Being a hometown kid, having the night I did, it’s going to be something they’ll have to remember.”