One good pass leads to another as Pistons dazzle Knicks with 37 assists in runaway win
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DETROIT – Dwane Casey presented the game ball to Andre Drummond for doing Drummondesque things: 27 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists. Drummond gave it to Tony Snell for doing things no Pistons player had ever done. Snell, meanwhile, says he’s probably giving the ball back to Drummond.
And that’s really all you need to know about the 122-102 romp past the New York Knicks: sharing.
The Pistons racked up 37 assists on 44 baskets, an 84 percent rate for assisted baskets in a league where 67 percent ranks first. Through eight games, the Pistons had assisted on 61 percent of their baskets, still above the NBA average.
“Thirty-seven assists is huge,” Casey said. “That’s something that we went into the game wanting to do was move the basketball. Andre did a heck of a job. Those are the things we’ve got to continue to do.”
The 37 assists were the most by a Pistons team since February 2010 and one under the NBA high for the season. The fact the Pistons did it without a point guard in their lineup makes it all the more remarkable.
Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier all missed the game again, the third straight time that’s happened. The Pistons have played all nine games this season without Blake Griffin, who led them in assists last season.
It was truly a shared effort, as well, with all nine players currently in the rotation picking up an assist in the first half and five players finishing with five or more assists. Drummond and Luke Kennard each picked up seven, Bruce Brown and Langston Galloway had six apiece and Markieff Morris chipped in with five.
“That’s what helped win the game for us,” said Snell, who became the first Piston – and only the ninth NBA player – to make at least six 3-pointers without missing any shots. Snell, whose previous season high was 10 points, finished with 24 by making all nine of his field goals.
The first possession portended the way the night would unfold. Casey called a play designed to free Snell for a triple along the sideline opposite the Pistons bench, Kennard found him with a perfectly crisp pass and Snell’s shot barely ruffled the net.
“It felt good. That’s a shot I work on all the time. Just took it,” Snell said. “Moving the ball, getting each other involved, keep the defense guessing. That’s the way we win.”
The other starting forward, also a Pistons newcomer, also had his best-scoring game of the season. Markieff Morris finished with 22, hitting 7 of 11 shots overall and 4 of 7 from the 3-point arc. Drummond hit 12 of 16 shots. The Pistons shot 55.7 percent and made half of their 30 3-pointers, a season-best 15 with triples from seven players.
“It was big,” Brown said of the ball movement that started early and never stopped. “Last game, I think the first half we had 16 assists and ended with 20. It was a big point for us on film to share the ball, get the ball moving. We scored a lot of points, so it was good for us.”
The Pistons were thrilled to add Snell via trade last June on the night before the draft, plugging a large void in the starting lineup with exactly the qualities they most needed at that position: a rangy defender and an above-average 3-point shooter. Snell’s been as advertised, coming into the game averaging 7.9 points on above-average 3-point shooting. He boosted his scoring average to 9.7 and his 3-point percentage from .375 to .457 by putting himself in the Pistons record book.
“That was bound to come,” Drummond said. “We’ve been telling Tony to shoot from the beginning of the season, ever since we got him. I tell him all the time, ‘Shoot the ball. That’s why you’re here.” He shot it with a lot of confidence today.”
If anything, the Pistons would like to see Snell increase his 3-point attempts, though he’s averaging a career-best five 3-point shots a game.
“Any time you shoot 37-whatever it is from three, take it,” Casey said, referring to Snell’s .375 3-point percentage before tipoff, or perhaps his .382 career average. “If you don’t take it, it’s a bad play. So we encourage him to take it.”
On a night the Pistons passed it more often and as precisely as Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, they did more then encourage 3-point shooting, they enabled it. It led to a chicken-or-the-egg question: Did the Pistons rack up 37 assists because they shot so well, or did they shoot so well because they created so many favorable shots with precise and willing passing?
“Six one way, half a dozen the other,” Casey said. “We’re one of the top 3-point shooting teams but we’re turning it over. Tonight every time there was an open play, we kicked it out and made the right pass. Very few times we had a chance to kick it out and didn’t.”