That’s more like it: Pistons snap 7-game streak in romp at Atlanta
One win over the bottom feeder of the Eastern Conference might not fully overshadow a seven-game losing streak and completely restore a team’s confidence, but the 105-91 romp over Atlanta was at least a very nice first step and decidedly better than the alternative.
“I think it’s really important for us,” Avery Bradley said after his 18-point night as all five starters hit double figures. “It’s a step closer to what we’re trying to achieve and that’s getting consistent wins and playing the right way. I’m happy with the way we played tonight. We just have to keep it up.”
The night started ominously with Atlanta raining shots from all angles, scoring 20 points in the first six minutes and grabbing an eight-point lead. The Hawks hit 5 of 6 triples in the first quarter. But Atlanta scored only 28 points over the final 18 minutes of the first half and had to hustle to break 90. The Pistons hit shots early, too, and with the pressure of clanking shots at a nightmarish pace of late finally relieved, their defense came around, as well.
“When you’re coming off of seven losses, it’s tough,” said Langston Galloway, who played a big role in the win beyond his 17-point output. “You’re trying to find your rhythm, find anything you can salvage. When we finally got our rhythm and ome stops, we just continued to make that a bulldozer effect.”
With the Pistons up double digits and a tough back to back at Indiana looming, Van Gundy brought his starters back midway through the fourth quarter. And if you were wondering why, well …
“I was just making sure we got the win,” he said. “I wasn’t messing around with that game even a little. We hit a little lull there, they hit a couple of threes, we didn’t score a couple of times – the hell with that. It’s been two weeks of hell. We’re going to make sure we get this one.”
Van Gundy took his starters out with two minutes left, leaving Andre Drummond one assist shy of his first career triple-double. He finished with 12 points, 19 boards and a career-best nine assists. Drummond didn’t seem the least bit perturbed about missing out on the triple-double.
“When I got the next one, I looked up and I saw, ‘Oh, shoot, I got nine; I’ll try to get one more,’ ” he grinned. “The flow of the game didn’t go that way, but career night for me so I’m pretty excited about that.”
He referred to himself as “Santa Dre – I’m handing out gifts. Just trying to move the ball around, try to get my teammates in the right position to score. It was just real fun, the way we’re playing.”
“I did know the situation,” Van Gundy said. “I just wanted to take care of the game. You’re not trying to run it up and I’m not doing the try-to-get-a-guy-a-stat thing when you’ve got another team that is down, number one. Number two, you leave a guy in there under two minutes to try to get some statistical thing and he gets hurt, I’m not going to forgive myself on that one.”
It will only get a footnote – lost in Drummond’s near triple-double and the snapping of the losing skid – but the minutes Galloway gave Van Gundy in the first half at point guard was critical. The Pistons trailed 31-30 after one quarter, but Reggie Jackson needed rest and Ish Smith had picked up three quick fouls in his first-quarter stint. So Galloway, whose time at point guard this season has been limited to late-game blowouts, ran the second unit and oversaw an 8-0 run that gave the Pistons the lead for good.
“That was the first time we’ve been pressed to use him at point guard and he did a good job and shot the ball well,” Van Gundy said. “Those were big.”
Galloway also gave the Pistons three assists and three steals. Later in the second quarter, Galloway’s 3-point marksmanship keyed a 10-0 closing run to open a 13-point halftime lead. When the Pistons opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run, the rout was on – and the pressure was off.
“I think we took the pressure off of ourselves,” Drummond said. “We played with a lot of pressure these past two weeks with the losses piling up. We just played carefree and had fun, just played.”
“Huge,” Tobias Harris said of putting the losing streak in the rear-view mirror. “At the end of the day, we came out and did what we needed to do. First quarter wasn’t our best, but second and third quarters we did a pretty good job defensively. It was great to get back to that.”