As trade deadline nears, Pistons tear a page out of an old playbook to beat Suns
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – Stripped of many of the preferred options from his playbook, Dwane Casey took a page out of a bygone era. Which is why the box score from the 116-108 win over Phoenix looks like it could have been one from four years ago.
Andre Drummond’s 31 points and 19 rebounds and Reggie Jackson’s 25 points and 10 assists are vintage 2015-16 Pistons when they went 44-38 and gave Cleveland four tough first-round playoff games.
“Somebody I’m comfortable with, playing the system that we’re used to,” Jackson said on a trade-deadline eve in a game contested by players on both sides who’ve found their names bandied about plenty. “A lot of pick and roll. That’s what Coach got to at the end, so it helped me be comfortable.”
Jackson scored 16 of his points in the second half as the Pistons dominated the last five minutes after the Suns inched within a point. The play that stood out was Bruce Brown’s block of a Devin Booker 18-foot jump shot that turned into a Langston Galloway layup, sparking a 7-0 run.
“I thought it was big,” Dwane Casey said of Brown, who has cemented himself as an important piece of the Pistons future in his second season. “Booker’s one of the elite scorers in our league. I thought Bruce and Tony (Snell) did a good job on him, keeping him in front and challenging his shot without fouling.”
Holding Booker to 22, six below his average, and getting better ball movement were critical components for a Pistons team whose margin for error has evaporated with a surreal series of injuries that have wracked them since preseason. They went without Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Luke Kennard, Markieff Morris and Svi Mykhailiuk this time around. The Pistons have been forced to use 26 different starting lineups this season, most in the NBA.
“Not much we can do,” Drummond shrugged. “Just got to go out there and play with what we have. Guys have been hurt. It’s been up and down all year.”
Drummond and Jackson are the longest-tenured Pistons by a mile, Drummond in his eighth season and Jackson his sixth. Galloway, in his third season, is next. Jackson joined the Pistons at the trade deadline in 2015 just ahead of his restricted free agency, then signed a five-year contract that summer that expires at the end of the season. Drummond could also be a free agent in July should he elect to opt out of the final year of the deal he signed in 2016.
He's become inured to the distraction of trade rumors, he says.
“I’ve been hearing that for the past four years, so, no, it doesn’t faze me,” he said. “(Maybe) for other guys in the locker room, but for me, keep playing until whatever happens, happens.”
Casey has been peppered with questions for the past few weeks about coaching while hearing rumors of multiple Pistons – Drummond, Rose, Morris, Galloway, Kennard, Snell, Christian Wood – who could be on the move.
“No more than normal this time of year,” he said. “They’ve done their job, being professional. We didn’t play well against Memphis (on Monday), but I don’t know how much that had to do with the trade deadline. We just played a lousy game.”
Wood scored 21 and Galloway 15 off the bench, the Pistons finishing with a 39-13 edge in bench points as Phoenix also was hamstrung by injuries to Aron Baynes, Tyler Johnson, Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric. Four Suns starters played 41 or more minutes.
The Pistons travel to Oklahoma City for a Friday game and return to Little Caesars Arena on Saturday to host the Knicks. Did it occur to Drummond that he might have played his last game with the Pistons on Wednesday?
“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “I’m going to go to sleep tonight and wake up and find out what happens. Who knows?”