‘I’ve seen turnarounds, but not like that’ – Pistons outscore Blazers 41-11 in 4th to win going away

Reggie Jackson scored 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pistons to a remarkable comeback victory at Portland.
Sam Forencich (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

PORTLAND – If Stan Van Gundy needed a signature moment to validate his blueprint for building the Pistons around Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, it was delivered with emphatic suddenness on another rainy day in the Pacific Northwest.

The Pistons had their best moment in Portland since Vinnie Johnson’s jump shot with 00.7 to play in the clinching Game 5 of the 1990 NBA Finals Sunday night, executing a 35-point turnaround in the final 19 minutes to beat the Trail Blazers 120-103 behind the absolute brilliance of Drummond and Jackson.

“I told those guys, I’m really old and I’ve coached a long time. I’ve never been a part of a fourth quarter like that,” Van Gundy said after Jackson tied a franchise record with 26 points in a quarter, hitting 10 of 11 shots after coming back with 9:15 to play. “I’ve seen turnarounds, but not like that.”

Jackson finished with a career-high 40 points and Drummond put up his third 20-20 game of the season with 29 points and 27 rebounds – he’s now averaging 20.3 points, 20.3 rebounds – as the Pistons improved to 5-1 overall, 3-0 on the road and 2-0 to start a grinding six-game road trip that continues Monday night at Golden State.

“I’ve seen some guys take over,” 13-year veteran Steve Blake said. “I’ve seen Kobe take over before and Melo take over before. But that was up there with one of the best ones I’ve seen.”

Jackson hit 10 of 11 shots in the fourth, draining two triples – including a dagger to put the Pistons up nine with 3:12 to play – and consistently getting to the basket on the high pick and roll with Drummond: the play that serves as the backbone of Van Gundy’s offense.

Jackson was 4 of 14 before hitting his final shot of the third quarter, despite getting inside early and often for good shots, then finished 15 of 26.

“Just kept attacking,” he said after tying Will Bynum’s franchise record for points in a quarter. “I was frustrated. Teammates kept saying ‘attack.’ Andre was on me about just continue to be aggressive. The whole team was. Tim Hardaway, my coach, he could see it was annoying. But he just said, ‘trust in the work; trust that shot will go down and just trust in your ability.’

“I felt like I got in a real good groove, just making shots. Funny thing is, when I was scoring I felt like we were scoring. I saw the ball go in the basket, but I didn’t necessarily know it was myself putting the ball in there a lot. Team was moving the ball, great screens. Allowed myself to get open.”

As brilliant as Jackson was, the marquee for this spectacular win has to be big enough for Drummond’s name as co-star. It was perhaps his finest all-around game of a career that’s on a dramatic upward arc. He made 14 of 19 shots and scored with ease on hook shots over former Team USA teammate Mason Plumlee. Drummond came back with 8:01 to play and the Pistons trailing 96-89. He grabbed 10 rebounds, came up with two steals and had a forceful block of Plumlee at the rim down the stretch.

“It was a good night offensively for me, but defensively I think I grew a little bit tonight,” Drummond said. “I didn’t challenge a lot of shots in that first half, but in the fourth quarter I think I did a good job of coming over and getting stops.”

“Andre’s numbers are phenomenal,” Van Gundy said. “I just said to somebody, if he didn’t get a rebound the rest of the trip he’d be in the top three or four in the league in rebounds. What he’s doing on the boards is phenomenal. He was just swallowing the ball up down the stretch. It was an incredible, incredible turnaround.”

It was Drummond’s second 25-25 game in his last three. He now has three such career games, one more than Dwight Howard. The only other active player with even one such game is Al Jefferson.

“Whatever night we win is a great night for me,” Drummond said. “Individually, I’m just doing my part to help my team win, no matter what the number is. If I have five rebounds or 20 rebounds, as long as we win the game, it’s a good night for me.”

Behind Jackson and Drummond, the Pistons had a good night boiled down to 12 outrageously good minutes. The Pistons outscored Portland 41-11 and shot 15 of 24, making 4 of 11 from the 3-point line. Their defense, which allowed Portland 92 points and 65 percent shooting through three quarters, held the Trail Blazers to 4 of 19 shooting and forced 11 turnovers while turning it over themselves just once.

“It was incredible,” Van Gundy said. “We went from not being able to stop them at all to stopping them on every possession and scoring every time down the floor. It was unbelievable. Our defense in the fourth quarter was absolutely incredible. It was just incredible. After not defending all night, our fourth-quarter defense was outstanding.”

Marcus Morris (13 points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16) had three steals each in the quarter to go with Drummond’s two and Jackson’s one.

“Their defense picked up,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts, whose team’s four-game win streak was snapped. “Hand it to them – they kept playing and obviously we didn’t handle it very well.”

Van Gundy looked much like the cat who swallowed the canary after the game, but the thought of what comes next brought him back to Earth quickly.

“You’ve got five wins now. You’re beating good people,” he said. “The confidence continues to build. But it’s the NBA. So you’re going to play again tomorrow against the defending champions. You’ve got to get ready to go.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Monday night’s 109-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors...

SLAM DUNK – The Pistons didn’t play close to the flawless game they probably anticipated they’d have to play to have a shot against Golden State, committing seven turnovers in the first quarter alone and 20 for the game, fueling Golden State’s 35 fast-break points. And still they were in position to pull off their second once-a-season comeback in two nights. Down 17 midway through the third quarter, the Pistons closed to within four to start the fourth. If there’s a takeaway from the night, it’s exactly that. Against the defending NBA champs, a team obliterating the opposition in its 7-0 start to the season and riding a 22-game home winning streak, the Pistons – on a back-to-back set while Golden State was off Sunday – still kept scratching and clawing. Stan Van Gundy’s got himself a bunch of street brawlers. Golden State spurted to start the fourth quarter as Detroit’s second unit, anchored by starter Marcus Morris, struggled to score while the Warriors reopened the lead to 14 with seven minutes to play. Andre Drummond, showing the effects of playing heavy minutes on the third game in four nights, still recorded his seventh consecutive double-double to start the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Reggie Jackson scored 20 points, but appeared to twist an ankle as he scored to finish the third quarter. He returned only briefly in the fourth quarter before limping to the bench.

FREE THROW – It took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a few seasons to emerge as a player verging on elite defender status and it will take Stanley Johnson time to learn NBA personnel and sophisticated schemes, as well. But you can see the makings of a truly terrorizing pair of wing defenders in progress for Stan Van Gundy. Caldwell-Pope shackled Portland scoring star Damian Lillard in the remarkable fourth-quarter rally to ignite Sunday’s win and he guarded Steph Curry about as well as humanly possible for most of Monday’s game despite the quick turnaround. Curry, averaging 33 points a game, had 18 through three quarters on 6 of 17 shooting and finished with 22 points.
Johnson had his best NBA showing and it was his defensive versatility that led to increased minutes, Van Gundy matching up against Golden State’s three-guard lineup. He finished with 20 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes.

3-POINTER – The Pistons get two consecutive days of practice in Los Angeles later this week and Brandon Jennings plans on taking part in them. He won’t be cleared for full participation just yet, but just watching Jennings work out – he plays a lot of one-on-one with Pistons director of player development and ex-NBA player Quentin Richardson, as he did before Monday night’s game – it doesn’t look like he’s conscious of the Achilles tendon ruptured last January. The general timetable Stan Van Gundy has offered – sometime in December, probably around Christmas – won’t get more specific until Jennings starts clearing each succeeding hurdle and builds toward full-court, five-on-five action. The strong start the Pistons have generated has to help Van Gundy conceive of plans to integrate Jennings into the rotation. If Jennings returns as something closer to the player he was at the time of his injury, he’ll be a logical candidate to assume a scoring role with a second unit that could use a go-to scorer. Van Gundy has pared his rotation from 10 to nine, foregoing backup shooting guard Reggie Bullock, as he’s staggered his substitution pattern to keep a starter or two on the floor at all times. It’s conceivable he could add Jennings to the rotation as the 10th man and keep Steve Blake as the backup point guard, allowing Jennings to play off of the ball at times where his scoring could be further exploited.

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