That’s more like it: Pistons snap 7-game streak in romp at Atlanta

Langston Galloway played some point guard and scored 17 points as the Pistons snapped a 7-game losing streak in a win at Atlanta.
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by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

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.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 105-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena

1-ABOUT TIME – It was 15 days that seemed like two months. The Pistons, cruising along at 14-6 when November ended, finally won their first game of December, snapping a seven-game losing streak. Not before a few uneasy minutes, though. Atlanta had 20 points on the board and an eight-point cushion midway through the first quarter, when they shot 71 percent and hit 5 of 6 triples. But the Pistons took a 13-point halftime lead with a 10-0 closing rush and opened the third quarter on a 7-0 spurt to go up by 20. After performing as the NBA’s worst offense in December, the Pistons got comfortable against Atlanta’s 29th ranked defense. Andre Drummond dominated the inside, grabbing 13 of his 19 rebounds by halftime and nearly recording his first career triple-double. He exited the game with two minutes left, the Pistons comfortably ahead, with 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high nine assists. Tobias Harris (19 points) and Avery Bradley (18 points) led the Pistons after struggling of late to make shots.

2-THE GALLO-WAY – The Pistons only went with two true point guards on the roster this season because they felt Langston Galloway gave them protection with his ability to play both backcourt spots. Galloway had only played point guard late in games already decided until this one, but it might warrant another look or two based on early returns. With Ish Smith in early foul trouble and Reggie Jackson needing a rest, Galloway opened the second quarter at the point and he led a unit that hadn’t played together all season – Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, Eric Moreland and Anthony Tolliver alongside Galloway – to an 8-0 run to start the quarter. When Jackson returned midway through the quarter, the Pistons had turned a 31-30 deficit into a 41-35 lead. Galloway scored 11 first-half points and the Pistons were plus-18 in his time, holding a 13-point halftime lead. Coming off a season-high 18 points on Tuesday, Galloway finished with 17 points and hit 5 of 8 from the 3-point arc.

3-BULLOCK ALERT – Stan Van Gundy stuck with Reggie Bullock in the starting lineup even though Bullock didn’t do much scoring (six points) and the starters played their worst game of the season collectively in Tuesday’s loss to Denver. Bullock came into the game 3 of 20 from the 3-point arc for the season, but he made a pair in the first half and finished with a season-high 10 points. When Bullock gets hot, he gets red hot.
He went through a similar rough stretch in his first season with the Pistons (2015-16) when he made the team with an outstanding preseason but they shot 1 of 17 in the first 10 games of the season to lose his grip on a rotation spot. But he was a big part of the playoff run that season, shooting 49 percent from the 3-point arc after the All-Star break. Bullock’s appeal rests not only in his 3-point stroke, but his cutting and ball movement on offense and ball pressure defensively. He’s also a player Van Gundy knows is comfortable in a complementary role and doesn’t need the ball to play effectively.

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