Huge night for Drummond, huge win for Pistons as Bradley returns to Boston

Andre Drummond was dominant as the Pistons knocked off the NBA’s hottest team, Boston, as he put up 26 points to go with 22 rebounds.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

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.”

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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