AUBURN HILLS, MI — Stan Van Gundy has his Detroit Pistons winning games, but it took a rout of the Indiana Pacers to finally satisfy the perfectionist coach.
The Pistons outscored the Pacers 74-50 in the second and third quarters and went on to an easy 118-96 victory.
“Everybody who played, played well tonight,” he said. “I don’t know that even in some of our better games that we’ve had that before. Tonight we had everybody play well.”
The win was Detroit’s sixth in eight games, including going 3-2 in a stretch of five games in seven nights.
“We knew this was going to be a very tough stretch, because we were going to play five in seven, and part of that started a stretch where we play 10 games where nine of them have a better record that we do,” he said. “We were one half-court shot away from going 4-1 in seven nights, and from having a six-game winning streak at home.
“There’s a long way to go in this stretch against good teams, but this is a good start.”
The Pistons used an unusually balanced offensive attack to beat the Pacers, getting double-figure scoring from six players and another eight points and 11 rebounds from Andre Drummond.
Reggie Jackson had 21 points and nine assists, but it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who put together one of the best games of his career. Caldwell-Pope is normally a defensive specialist whose offensive game is mainly limited to three-pointers. Against the Pacers, though, he had 18 points, a career-best eight assists, matched a career-high with seven rebounds and added four steals.
Caldwell-Pope said he never gave much thought to a triple-double, but felt that he and his teammates broke the game open with their defensive effort.
“We got stops and ran in transition to get easy baskets and we just continued it throughout the whole game,” he said. “We knew it was a back-to-back and they had one as well so we wanted to come out with great energy. I had a lot of energy and my teammates followed. It was a great team win.”
Marcus Morris also had a huge game. He had 16 points, but the best way to see his impact on the game was that he was a plus-24 while his opposite number, Paul George, was a minus-18. George went 4-for-16 from the floor and missed all four of his three-pointers.
“Marcus played a great game on both ends of the floor,” Van Gundy said. “He matched up with one of the best players in the league, and he made him work hard on both end of the floor. We got lucky to be honest about it – Paul missed a lot of shots that he would normally make – but Marcus played tough defense and made him work hard on the other hand.”
The win came a night after the Pistons had done something they’ve struggled with in recent years – they beat the 76ers. It was another balanced scoring attack, with all five starters scoring between 13 and 21 points.
“Our starters really did a good job tonight,” Van Gundy said via Pistons.com. “Both halves, I thought our starters were outstanding. Good energy and good defensive focus.
“I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we have some balance.”
Just as against the Pacers, Detroit’s defense was the key. The Pistons scored 31 points off turnovers against Philadelphia and 27 against the Pacers, while only giving up 34 points combined.
“Defensively we wanted to key in, because the easiest way to stop a team is to never let them get going,” Jackson said. “We came out and wanted to make sure we just keyed in on defense and try to take care of each other on offense.”
Things don’t get easier for the Pistons – they face the Clippers, Celtics and Bulls this week – but Van Gundy is confident that they’re heading in the right direction.