Jackson closes strong as Pistons rally back from another double-digit deficit

Reggie Jackson had a dazzling last seven minutes to lead the Pistons to another comeback win after trailing by double digits
Jordan Johnson (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

MINNEAPOLIS – The Pistons didn’t get a ton of favorable bounces for the first 47 minutes and 54 seconds Sunday night. But they got two in the last six seconds and that explains the buoyant mood of a flight home to deliver them to their date with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jimmy Butler had two chances to tie in those final six seconds – the first after getting fouled by Avery Bradley while shooting a game-tying 3-point attempt and making his first two foul shots, the second at the buzzer from the 3-point arc – and failed both times.

“I thought we covered very well and fought very hard and then I thought Reggie (Jackson) made terrific plays and then you’ve still got to get lucky,” Stan Van Gundy said after the 100-97 win salvaged the last of a three-game road trip begun with tough losses to Milwaukee and Indiana. “Jimmy Butler, who’s a great free-throw shooter, missed one. That’s what it comes down to. I know everybody wants to discount the luck part. Our guys made the same effort, defended just as much, but we needed a little bit of a break.”

For most of the night, it just didn’t seem like the Pistons would ever put themselves in position to benefit from a fortunate bounce. They trailed 17-8 early and after briefly rallying to take a 39-32 lead in the second quarter, trailed by four to eight points until Minnesota opened it to double digits late in the third quarter. It was still an 11-point game with 10 minutes to play when the Pistons started to chip away.

With seven minutes left, Van Gundy brought Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris back with the Pistons down five. Jackson was brilliant down the stretch, scoring nine points on 4 of 4 shooting, dishing out four assists and grabbing two rebounds. With the score 86-79 a possession after his re-entry, Jackson was then responsible for the Pistons next 19 points, scoring nine himself, setting up Bradley for two huge corner triples and feeding Anere Drummond for a layup on a dazzling pass and for a lob dunk.

Those 19 points spanned nine possessions – all of them ending with a Pistons score.

“Reggie Jackson was being Reggie Jackson,” Drummond said. “Under five minutes to play, just give that man the basketball and let him play.”

It helped that Drummond was being Drummond, too. After a fairly lethargic first half, Drummond had 11 points and 12 boards in the second half to finish with 20 and 16 despite having his left arm go number and having to exit the game midway through the third quarter before the feeling returned. Bradley and Harris finished with 18 apiece, Harris hitting two free throws with 3.3 seconds left to set up Butler’s buzzer heave for the tie.

“He’s a game-time player, so when he shot the ball, it’s like, hopefully that (bleep) comes out,” Drummond grinned. “It was an open shot for him and it’s a shot he takes all the time, so I’m glad it went out and we got a win.”

Jackson, too, fully expected Butler to tie the game at the foul line. After Butler made the first two, he seemed upset with something said, perhaps by Jackson, and gave him a sour look, though he said after the game it had nothing to do with his miss.

“Not gonna lie,” Jackson said of his expectation that the Pistons would have to make a final shot to win after Butler sank the third foul shot. “He’s a great free-throw shooter. He’s just a great player. He’s poised. He’s one of the closers in this league. The ball bounced our way, fortunately, but I definitely expected him to make that and for Coach to draw up a great play for us to get a good look.”

No doubt, it would have been a Jackson-Drummond pick and roll, a play the Pistons ran every time downcourt after Jackson’s re-entry.

“I thought Reggie was making good plays tonight, so we ran a steady diet of Reggie pick and rolls down the stretch,” Van Gundy said. “He made great decisions and great passes. The pass to Andre was incredible. And then he had the skip pass to the corner to Avery. He made a lot of good plays. Then they finally defended the hell out of it on the last one and he hit a huge step-back. To me, this was his best finish of the year.”

It was also, perhaps, the Pistons best finish of the season, considering the circumstances as they faced their first crisis point coming off their first loss of consecutive games. Van Gundy diversified the offense this year so the Pistons become less dependent on Jackson’s pick-and-roll panache, but he remains their closer.

“It’s something Coach and I have talked about,” Jackson said. “We’re going to open it up a lot to start the game, just trying to find out who’s hot. We’ve got a lot of scorers. We’ve got guys who can score in different ways. Dre’s great with the ball in his hands. But down the stretch, I always know he’s going to give me the ball.”

When he does things like he did Sunday to give the Pistons a memorable win – piloting nine straight successful possessions in crunch time – it makes Van Gundy’s decision of what to call at winning time pretty, pretty easy.

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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