What a weekend! Pistons complete sweep, knock off Warriors

Avery Bradley’s big steal and layup with less than a minute to play helped the Pistons clinch a huge comeback win at Golden State.
NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

OAKLAND – Seven games into the NBA season, the award for the most impressive weekend is already clinched. It belongs to the Pistons. In games that tipped off 22 hours apart on opposite ends of California’s coast, the Pistons knocked off the NBA’s last remaining undefeated team and the reigning champions. And they did it by coming back from 13 down against the Los Angeles Clippers and 14 down against the Golden State Warriors.

Even on an NFL Sunday with the World Series raging, that’s the kind of thing that is apt to catch people’s attention.

But what does it mean, the 95-87 win over the Clippers in which the Pistons closed on a 38-17 rush and the 115-107 win over Golden State in which the Pistons went on a 47-20 run over a 13-minute span that began with about eight minutes left in the third quarter?

“It means a lot,” Tobias Harris said. “Two games versus two very good teams. The morale in the locker room is great right now. We’re embracing each other. We’re enjoying it. We’re having fun and that’s the biggest thing. We’re having fun as a team in here.”

Even Stan Van Gundy had to crack a smile, belying his cautionary words about sample size and the calendar and the long road ahead.

“It’s great and I’m not downplaying it. These two wins are great. Really proud of ’em,” he said. “But it truly is two of 82. We’re seven games into an 82-game season, 75 to go. So you can be really happy and should be tonight. These guys should be very, very happy tonight. And then tomorrow you’ve got to start getting yourself ready to play again.”

It was a night, and a weekend, that makes you consider their possibilities, though. It’s taken the Pistons less than two weeks to answer some of the resounding questions that hovered over them from last season, when they struggled mightily on the road and were impotent (3-14) in back to backs.

The Sunday win – with a 5:30 p.m. local tipoff after a 7:30 game in Los Angeles the previous night – makes the Pistons 3-1 on the road with a three-game winning streak. In each of those three games, they’ve come back from huge deficits – 21 at New York before the 13- and 14-point comebacks to start their three-game trek through California. They’re 2-0 in back to backs.

“We’re just fighting for 48 minutes, whether we’re up, whether we’re down,” said Reggie Jackson, who scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half to keep the Pistons in it. “We want to come out and do our best to put out a complete game for 48 minutes. I think this team has just been tremendously focused and, so far, we’ve had a never-say-die mentality.”

To flesh out the pinch-me nature of an epic win, the Pistons won on a night that Golden State’s three prolific scorers – Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson – all had it cooking. They finished 33 of 50 for a combined 84 points and did it despite better than commendable defense from Avery Bradley on Curry and Stanley Johnson on Durant.

“The most pleasing thing about the win is they didn’t have a bad night. Their three guys shot the lights out,” Van Gundy said. “They had a great shooting night and we were still able to get the win.”

The Pistons got great shooting from their guards – Jackson (8 of 12), Bradley (8 of 13, 5 of 7 from three) and Ish Smith (6 of 7) combined for 61 points – but not from two staples, Andre Drummond (4 of 17) and Harris (6 of 18). But Drummond contributed 18 boards, five assists and five steals and Harris hit two big shots. A runner that turned into an and-one after a Bradley triple nearly halved the 14-point deficit to kick start the rally, but an even bigger shot was to come.

After Golden State fell 13 down, a Durant triple fueled an 11-2 run to pull the Warriors within two with nearly four minutes still to go. An Andre Iguodala dunk with 2:12 left made it a three-point game. After a scoreless trip for each team the Pistons were groping for a clean look deep in the shot clock when Harris found himself isolated on Durant a healthy step beyond the 3-point arc at its top. His shot cut cleanly through the net to make it a six-point game with 1:27 to play.

“Huuuge,” Van Gundy called it. “Huuuge. He shot that thing to the moon.”

On a night that started dreadfully for Harris – he was 2 of 12 at halftime – he shot it without hesitation.

“One thing my dad always taught me is never stop shooting. No matter what type of night, you’ve got to trust in your shot and at that point I just did that,” Harris said. “I know KD’s a tall, long player, so I had to get it high up over him and it was able to fall. That was a big shot for us.”

If it needed an icer, Bradley provided it with a steal and layup, one of 26 turnovers a relentless Pistons defense forced on an elite offensive team, to make it an eight-point game with 52 seconds to play.

Bradley and Johnson, the perimeter anchors of Van Gundy’s defense, added three steals each to the five Drummond registered.

“I don’t think anybody in the locker room thinks that we’re there yet,” said Johnson, who played a team-high 41 minutes and scored 15 points, knocking down 3 of 5 from the 3-point arc. “Such a short sample size, but it’s always good to see positive things and going in a good direction. To see the things we’re doing have good results, it makes us push harder to keep doing the things we’re doing and keep listening to Coach and keep practicing hard and giving the effort that we’re giving.”

All that stuff happens, better days are indeed in store for the Pistons. But it might be a while before they have a better weekend.

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 115-107 win over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena...

1-WHAT A WEEKEND – So, how was your weekend? The Pistons? Oh, their weekend was OK. I guess. If you consider knocking off the NBA’s last unbeaten team and the defending champs in less than 24 hours a big deal, I suppose. Hah! Just kidding. Yeah, that was about as good as an NBA weekend gets. They came back from 13 down to beat the Clippers and had an even more remarkable rally to knock off Golden State for the third straight win to push their record to 5-2. The Pistons fell behind 68-54 at 8:30 of the third quarter when Golden State went on a 13-2 run to open the second half, but they came all the way back to take a one-point lead on Anthony Tolliver’s fadeaway jump shot at the third-quarter buzzer and extended their lead to seven with nine minutes left and to 13 on Stanley Johnson’s triple with about six minutes to play. Over a span of less than 14 minutes the Pistons outscored Golden State 47-20. Then they withstood a Golden State charge, a 13-2 run that pulled the Warriors within two. Tobias Harris hit a huge triple with 1:42 to play to put the Pistons up six and Avery Bradley’s steal and layup with 52 seconds to play clinched it. Bradley finished with 23 points and Reggie Jackson 22, the starting backcourt combining to make 16 of 25 shots. Bradley hit 5 of 7 triples.

2-ANOTHER ADJUSTMENT –Stan Van Gundy at mid-week and again on Friday committed to making Henry Ellenson a regular part of the rotation for the foreseeable future. But Ellenson didn’t play against Golden State, almost assuredly due to the matchup quandary it would have created. Van Gundy went with a 10-man rotation that consisted of wings Reggie Bullock and Langston Galloway and forward Anthony Tolliver in addition to the everyday staples, Ish Smith and Jon Leuer. Tolliver’s greater defensive versatility won the day over Ellenson. You can expect Ellenson to continue to get his shot and likely see him on Tuesday when the Pistons wrap up the three-game road trip against the Lakers. Van Gundy pared his second-half rotation to nine, bypassing Langston Galloway and going with longer minutes for Stanley Johnson and Avery Bradley. Johnson played superbly, finishing with 15 points and at least limiting Kevin Durant to 14 shot attempts on a night he was making challenged shots. Tolliver finished with seven points and five rebounds.

3-SURVIVNG THE ASSAULT – When you play Golden State and the Warriors are doing Warriorsy things, you can’t get by with a few good nights from your critical players. The Pistons got to halftime trailing by five despite the fact Andre Drummond (1 of 7) and Tobias Harris shot a combined 3 of 19 while the rest of the team was 18 of 32. Both players missed a couple of first-quarter layups. It didn’t get markedly better for Drummond after halftime, as he finished 4 of 17 but did grab 18 rebounds. Harris, though, hit some big shots, finishing with 16 points. Kevin Durant (28 points), Steph Curry (29) and Klay Thompson (27) were sizzling, even by their standards. At one point midway through the third quarter, as the Warriors took a five-point halftime lead to 14, they were a combined 25 of 34. The trio finished 33 for 50 and a combined 84 points.

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