Pistons toast Isiah by crushing Lakers to keep Palace roll going

AUBURN HILLS – Those weren’t exactly Magic Johnson’s Showtime Lakers and it wasn’t quite an NBA Finals showcase. But Isiah Thomas was seated courtside and Lakers purple and gold, no matter the glamour franchise’s current status, still generates a buzz among fans of any generation.

So the 121-102 demolition was satisfying for the Pistons on multiple levels, toasting Isiah and the memory of the 1989 NBA title, the franchise’s first, in The Palace’s maiden season on the one hand, keeping the Pistons in playoff position as they try to reclaim their season on the other.

“Tonight was a very special night for him to be able to reminisce on his past here in this arena,” the current face of the franchise, Andre Drummond, said about the most luminescent star in the franchise’s firmament. “An exciting time. Just really showing the respect and his props.”

Drummond had a night that would have held up in any NBA era, scoring 24 points to go with 17 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals – all while sitting out the fourth quarter with the Pistons blowing open the game amid a 36-20 third quarter.

“I don’t think the league has an answer when he decides to play like that,” Reggie Jackson said. “He can be the most dominant player in our league.”

If he’d played even a handful of minutes in the fourth quarter, he was likely to easily record another 20-20 game. And if he’d have made a handful of bunnies in the first half – when the Pistons shot just 14 of 28 in the paint – he’d have been on course for a 30-20 game.

“Oh, man. It was tough for me missing all those shots that I usually make,” Drummond said. “But I stayed with it, got back on defense, played as hard as I could. My teammates really stayed on me, kept me positive, because I knew the shots would fall eventually.”

The Lakers allowed 70 points in the paint despite making that the focal point of their game plan, virtually conceding 3-point shots to the Pistons.

“We didn’t set out to do what we wanted,” said Luke Walton, whose Lakers were coming off a blowout win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

So the Pistons won in a rout despite getting very little from the 3-point line – 4 of 16 – or much in the way of backcourt scoring. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit 2 of 7 shots and finished with nine points, Reggie Jackson 2 of 5 shots for four points.

But Stan Van Gundy thought Jackson “played a hell of a game,” and he really did. He had eight assists and no turnovers. Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell was limited to two points and two shots.

“He threw three (passes) ahead to open people on the fast break in the third quarter. I thought it was great,” Van Gundy said. “I also thought he worked extremely hard defensively. I thought it was maybe his best defensive game.”

The Pistons got 20 points from Jon Leuer and 14 from Marcus Morris plus another strong game from their bench. Tobias Harris had 19 points in 24 minutes, Ish Smith had 10 points and seven assists and Aron Baynes 10 points and six rebounds. Stanley Johnson continued his resurgence, too, with seven points, three assists and two rebounds.

“Did a great job. Ish and those guys came out, Aron Baynes … they did their thing,” Morris said. “Pushed the tempo, got steals, made easy plays. Stanley came in and did a great job, too.”

Thomas talked before the game about his sense that the Pistons came out of last year’s playoffs with a genuine bravado and an identity rooted in the glory days of Pistons basketball – defense and toughness. He cited Stanley Johnson getting up into LeBron James in the playoffs with a gleam in his eye. And he accurately assessed that bravado as not often present so far this season.

The Pistons have surged and ebbed frequently this season. They’ve won seven of their last eight at The Palace now and are 7-4 in their last 11 games. They acknowledge some positive signs but are hesitant to say there’s been a corner turned.

The Lakers scored 18 points in the game’s first five minutes and hit 8 of 10 shots before being limited to 38 percent for the rest of the game.

“You don’t want to start like that. Who we got coming in here?” Jackson asked, well aware it was San Antonio on Friday. “Don’t think we want to let them start 8 of 10. It’s going to be a little harder to stop them.”

“We’re just worried about winning games,” Drummond said. “We’re not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves. We’re taking it game by game, practice by practice and night by night. Stay positive and just try to win as many games as possible.”

It’s a formula that worked pretty well for the Pistons in bygone eras. There was a guy with a few rings on his fingers and a jersey hanging in The Palace rafters who could attest to as much sitting courtside to wave the Lakers out of the building one last time.