Shots fall as Pistons make quick work of Hawks to sweep road trip
Scott Cunningham (NBAE/Getty)
ATLANTA – The Pistons got all of their anxiety over slow starts out of their system in one breathtaking first quarter.
Coming into the game 28th in the NBA in first-quarter scoring differential at minus-3.5 – ahead of only Sacramento and Dallas – the Pistons wiped out more than half of their cumulative total by doubling up Atlanta 40-20.
They led by 24 points 11 minutes into the game and by 29 with 10 minutes left, never allowing Atlanta to come closer than 17 points until the final two minutes with both benches emptied.
Dwane Casey has had to turn to his bench to claw back into games too often already this season, but when he made his first substitutions Friday night – Ish Smith and Langston Galloway seven minutes into the game – the Pistons held a 26-10 lead.
“That’s huge,” Galloway said as the Pistons completed a 2-0 road trip. “These last couple of games, it’s been nip and tuck. Just having a little room to go out there and have error, it was fine for us in the second unit. We knew we were going to bring a lot of energy and we just wanted to build it as much as we could.”
The Pistons registered season highs in assists (30), 3-point attempts (47) and 3-point makes (20). Nobody was better than Galloway, who hit 5 of 9 and finished with 16 points. In his last two games, Galloway has hit 9 of 17 shots – all of them 3-point attempts.
“That’s what he does,” Casey said. “You can’t have too many shooters – or makers. That’s more important. You’ve got to have makers and he’s one of the guys who can knock it down.”
The Pistons had eight players who contributed to the 20 made triples, Galloway one of six who made at least two. Stanley Johnson had his second straight terrific game off the bench, finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals, hitting 4 of 9 triples.
“He did a solid job in that role off the bench, one, defensively. That’s what we need,” Casey said. “The shooting is gravy. He hit some shots and that’s not why I thought he was solid. I thought his defensive attention to detail was good.”
“He’s really confident,” Galloway said. “Been putting a lot of work in the gym and he’s just out there having fun. You can tell. He’s out there relaxed and not forcing anything, just letting it come to him.”
The bench scored nearly half (60) of their points in the 124-109 win, a deceiving final score in that Atlanta finished the game on a 17-3 run.
But the starters were pretty darn good, too. Blake Griffin wasn’t one of the seven Pistons who finished in double figures – they all got there by the end of the third quarter, in fact – but he was at the heart of the hot start, recording six of his nine assists in the first 10 minutes before going to the bench.
“He’s real good at passing,” Reggie Bullock said. “Coming off handoffs with him, he knows I’m always going to make the right read; I know he’s going to make the right pass. He knows where players are going to be and we’ve got to continue to keep it going.”
Bullock scored seven points in the game’s first three minutes and finished with 13, hitting 3 of 6 triples to break out of an early-season shooting slump. Bullock said he watched video of his form and noticed his feet were landing in the wrong spot.
“My feet were turning sideways on a lot of my shots,” he said. “I was falling to the side. As long as I’m straight up and down, I feel like my shot is money.”
With Galloway, Bullock, Johnson and Glenn Robinson III combining to score 63 points and hit 14 of 28 from the 3-point line, the wing production that was so lacking in the recent five-game losing streak has been resuscitated, lessening the urgency for Luke Kennard – out the past two-weeks plus with a separated shoulder – to return.
But they’ll take him, another gifted shot maker on a team that could go a long way if the teammates of Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are giving them room to operate.
Drummond was strong again, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, hitting 10 of 15 shots.
“He’s playing as well as any big man I’ve been around,” Casey said. “Running the floor, blocking shots, protecting the rim and not having one play called for him. That’s so important to have players like that who are unselfish.”
Casey was likely wary of this game, the Pistons perhaps relaxed after snapping their losing streak two nights earlier at Orlando and aware of Atlanta’s 3-8 record. And then there was the matter of the slow starts. Another one might have given the young Hawks the confidence to close out at home.
But any such worries were dispelled in the time it took the Pistons to build a double-digits lead: less than four minutes.
“I thought we came out with a sense of urgency,” Casey said. “A toughness. We knew this team was going to run and we met it with our getting back in transition. It’s amazing when you make shots, how it gives you a little bit more juice to play. All around – offensively and defensively – we played the game the right way.”