Something for everyone as Pistons roar back to notch OT win over Nuggets
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – From his spot on Dwane Casey’s bench, Bruce Brown saw his buddy Sekou Doumbouya busting his butt. Casey apparently saw the same thing. Because five minutes into the game, the 19-year-old rookie was the only starter still on the court.
And the Pistons trailed by 17 points, 24-7.
“I saw Sekou playing hard,” Brown said after the Pistons came back from a deficit that swelled to 21 points – or three touchdowns, if you will, in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee – to win 128-123 in overtime. “I just tried to go in there and match his energy.”
It was a game with a storyline to meet everyone’s needs.
If you like offense, the first half had plenty, the Pistons eventually settling for a 68-65 lead after surrendering a season-worst 44 points in the first quarter. If defense is your thing, the second half saw a total of 89 points scored before overtime.
If you’re invested in the Pistons future, then the play of their young core – Brown, Doumbouya, Svi Mykhailiuk and Christian Wood – should fill you with hope. And if you have a fondness for the core that has defined the Pistons for the past half-decade – Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson – then the game’s last act was immensely satisfying.
Nobody, though, had his fingerprints on the win quite like Brown.
He finished two assists shy of a triple-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with his eight assists. When he entered the game after Casey’s second timeout to slow the Denver avalanche, the tenor changed almost immediately.
“We went on a little bit of a run, they weren’t getting back on defense, we kept going out in transition and scoring,” Brown said. “When the second unit came in, we just played with a lot of energy.”
The Pistons wound up getting 62 points off of their bench with Jackson finishing with 20 points, six assists and no turnovers in a season-high 34 minutes, necessitated in part by a groin injury that sidelined Derrick Rose at halftime. Rose finished with two points, snapping his career-best streak of 14 straight games with at least 20 points.
“Great,” Jackson said to describe Brown’s impact. “Bruce and Sekou really fueled that group. They just kept the energy high and we all fed off of it.”
Seven Pistons finished in double figures with Drummond racking up 21 points and 17 assists after a lethargic start that saw him head to the bench after four minutes. Down the stretch and into overtime – before Drummond fouled out with 2:43 to play and the Pistons ahead by four points, at least – they leaned on an old staple: the Jackson-Drummond pick and roll.
“We just went with something that we knew and have been doing together for a lot of years,” Jackson said. “I think he was comfortable. I was comfortable. And the guys around us played well, so we were just trying to find a way to scrap, scratch and get a win tonight – or today.”
Thus began the busiest week of the season for the Pistons, one in which they’ll play five games that includes two back to backs. They might have to do it without Rose – Casey had no insight into the possibility of additional time missed – and Markieff Morris, missed the game with right hip soreness.
It could not have started on a more ominous note – until Casey found something in his kids to change the narrative.
“I started getting guys in there who were going to play hard,” he said. “that was the most important thing – finding live bodies to go in and play. It’s funny how energy, enthusiasm, passing and playing hard will help. It’s a dangerous way to play. I credit our young guys.”
Doumbouya – who scored 27 points over a seven-game span before Casey decided to sit him Friday to clear his head – scored 17 points, all in the first half.
Mykhailiuk didn’t have a great shooting day – 1 of 6 from the 3-point arc – yet wound up with 13 points anyway, a sign of his maturity. And in a sign of the way his reputation as a deadly shooter has spread, note that Mykhailiuk shot eight free throws largely because he was twice fouled while attempting a 3-point shot. Wood also didn’t have his best game, yet managed to contribute 11 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
And when Drummond fouled out, Casey went to Thon Maker over Wood for Maker’s defense on All-Star Nikola Jokic, who finished with a loud triple-double: 39 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists. Maker hit a clutch half-hook off a nice setup from Jackson and flushed a deft lob from Tony Snell to ice the win while also holding his ground to force a Jokic miss in a key overtime defensive possession.
So there were contributors up and down the box score for the Pistons on a day they erased a 21-point deficit, overcame the absence of two more key veterans and shared the ball to the tune of 33 assists.
But if you’re handing out gold stars, save one for Brown. Without his grit, that game doesn’t get turned around.
“I just think it’s in you,” Brown said of his capacity to play hard game after game. “You’ve got to have that in you and I do. I have that.”