Pistons finish off weekend sweep with comeback OT win at Boston

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope worked overtime along with his teammates to beat Boston, coming back from double digits for the second straight night.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

BOSTON – Stan Van Gundy will go into summer armed with a lottery pick – barring a Herculean charge over the season's final 12 games – and a war chest of money. It's pretty easy to guess where he's going to allocate his resources.

Here's where it won't be: His backcourt and the middle of the Pistons lineup are populated by players who figure to be around for as far into the future as you dare look in the NBA. Sunday night's performance was the latest compelling example of why Van Gundy, despite a turbulent first season of injuries and roster shuffling, is bullish on the future in Detroit.

Andre Drummond scored 18 points despite missing 9 of 11 free throws, grabbed a whopping 22 rebounds and blocked four shots. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope logged 44 minutes and for the second straight night didn't sit a second after halftime – this time, including an overtime period – while scoring a game-high 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds. And Reggie Jackson came up one rebound shy of his second triple-double in his last three games, scoring 17 points and dishing out 11 assists.

So the Pistons wrapped a 3-1 week in which they played four games without Greg Monroe, knocked off two playoff teams (Memphis and Chicago) and came back twice in a 24-hour span from double-digit second-half deficits.

"I keep saying it: This team's got a lot of character," Van Gundy said after the 105-97 win at Boston, where the Celtics had won 9 of 10 to climb into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. "Guys have continued to fight the entire year – good times, adversity, injuries, whatever it is. They continue to play really, really hard."

Nobody did it harder or better than their three franchise cornerstones, Jackson the graybeard of the bunch at the ripe old age of 24. Jackson's had some intoxicating highs in his 15 games since arriving at the trade deadline, but struggled in other games. Not so much over the last four, though, which included a 20-20 performance and Saturday's 17-point, seven-assist third quarter against Chicago when he made 7 of 8 shots and didn't commit a turnover.

"As I told coach Van Gundy, we're getting a special talent," said Caron Butler, a teammate of Jackson's in Oklahoma City last season who was consulted by Van Gundy before the trade was executed. "It takes some time to develop a rhythm and find your spots and where your offense is coming from. He seems to be finding his niche on this ballclub."

The other 2002 draft class veteran, Tayshaun Prince, has mentored Jackson through his rushed transition, too, lending perspective by telling him about what he experienced in Memphis with another point guard that experienced growing pains, Mike Conley.

"I was just trying to give him some similarities, how Mike Conley took some time being able to understand playing with two bigs, when you can use pick and roll, get to the rim and how quick you can make decisions," Prince said. "It's going to take time. When Greg comes back, it's still going to take time for him to figure that out. But while Greg's out, he's more comfortable with the four out, one in."

The Pistons won despite the fourth guy out – Anthony Tolliver, who has replaced Monroe as a starter – enduring shooting slump. Tolliver didn't score against Boston, missing all seven shots. But their three young guys were so good and they got just enough help from Jodie Meeks (14 points), Butler (12) and Prince (nine points and another handful of big plays down the stretch) to grind out another win.

They came back from 10 down in the second half, getting 30 second-half points from their backcourt, 17 from Caldwell-Pope, Jackson content to orchestrate and find his shooters after assertive forays into the paint.

Jackson's comfort level is palpably growing. He might have done his best job yet of probing without forcing anything. He went into overtime with just one turnover, finishing with four, two coming on offensive foul calls. At least a handful of times, he made pinpoint passes that created open shots that the Pistons couldn't convert. On another night, Jackson might have registered another 20-assist game.

"Easily," Van Gundy said. "He's playing very well. The last four games, he's been outstanding – making plays and creating shots for us. You've got to be very, very happy with that."

"He's been good the last couple of games," Caldwell-Pope said. "He's really just been taking his time, making the right play, coming off of screens and really being aggressive."

Caldwell-Pope, too, is showing late-season growth – perhaps no better evidence being Van Gundy's utter faith in him by granting him as many minutes as he can handle.

"Tomorrow's day off," Van Gundy deadpanned, "will serve him well."

"Yeah," Caldwell-Pope agreed. "I'm going to get a lot of rest."

"The roadrunner," Butler declared him. "Rising star, man. He's a humble kid and we're really happy for him, the way he's performing of late. He's playing with a lot of energy and as he goes, we go – him, Reggie, Andre. We're playing off of those guys."

And will be for years to come.

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Sunday night's 105-97 win over the Boston Celtics...

SLAM DUNK – Safe to say Reggie Jackson is starting to settle in as Pistons starting point guard. He's still going to have ups and downs, especially given what's going on around him with Greg Monroe hurt and teammates like Anthony Tolliver and Jodie Meeks experiencing deep perimeter shooting slumps. But Jackson came into Boston – where the Pistons came back from double digits down in the second half for the second straight night to win, this time 105-97 in overtime – off of a three-game stretch that included a 20-20 game, his first career triple-double and Saturday's 20-point, 11-assist spearheading of the comeback from 19 down to beat Chicago. Jackson's night Sunday: 17 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists, a rebound shy of his second triple-double in three games. Jackson could have easily had another half-dozen assists, but the Pistons – who shot 44 percent playing their fourth back-to-back set of the past 13 days – didn't finish a number of wide-open opportunities created by Jackson's penetration. Stan Van Gundy talked before the game not only of the acclimation to a new system and new teammates, but also Jackson going from backup to starter with the heavier minutes load, compounded by the rigorous nature of the Pistons' recent schedule. The adjustment is moving forward very nicely, it appears. His backcourt partner, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a strong game, too, leading the Pistons with 27 points and adding eight rebounds.

FREE THROW – The two Pistons traded to Boston for Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome, have both found their way into Brad Stevens' rotation. Jerebko had the better performance against the Pistons, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes. When the Pistons swung the trade with Oklahoma City that returned Reggie Jackson, they needed to make a move to add a small forward to replace the minutes they lost in shipping Kyle Singler to the Thunder. Datome hadn't been able to crack the rotation under three different Pistons coaches and Stan Van Gundy viewed Jerebko as a power forward who'd be miscast guarding primarily on the perimeter. Besides, Anthony Tolliver had usurped Jerebko's early-season role as Greg Monroe's primary replacement when Van Gundy used just one of Andre Drummond or Monroe. Tolliver has struggled with his 3-point shot over the past few weeks and did so again at Boston, going scoreless and missing all seven of his shots, three from the 3-point arc. Datome went scoreless in six first-half minutes.

3-POINTER – A Caron Butler 3-pointer with 9:05 to play in the third quarter was his third of the game and the 583rd of the season for the Pistons, a new franchise record. The record had been held by the 1996-97 Pistons, who got the vast majority of their triples from three players – Terry Mills (175, a .422 shooter), Joe Dumars (166, .432) and Lindsey Hunter (166, .355). That team made 38.3 percent from the arc, good for No. 3 in the league in an era when the 3-pointer was a much less integral part of the game than it is today. That Pistons team took about 25 percent of its shots from the arc, an extraordinary figure for that time. This season, the most prolific 3-point team, Houston, is on track to finish with 40 percent of its shots coming from the 3-point line. The Pistons take 26 percent of their shots from the arc. But at 35.6 percent going into Sunday's game, they ranked 22nd in the NBA in accuracy. The record probably won't last long. Stan Van Gundy would like to add more shooting in the off-season and build the Pistons with shooters around Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. "If you're going to have point guards who can penetrate the ball and a big guy like Andre (Drummond) rolling and hopefully we have Greg (Monroe), then you've got to put shooting around them. I think we would like to maximize that."

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