BOSTON – The second half of the season got off to the same smashing start as the first half – a road win over a conference playoff team – but the star of the show was someone who wasn’t even in uniform when the Pistons won at Indiana three months ago to launch 2019-20.
Sekou Doumbouya scored 24 points – topping his previous high by nine points in only his eighth start – and the Pistons, all things considered, scored their most unlikely win of the season.
“I would say the best win we’ve had,” Markieff Morris said after the 116-103 win over the team that began the night as the East’s No. 2 seed, Boston. “We’ve been struggling lately – we’ve really been struggling all season. To come out and compete like we did tonight just shows that if we do that every night, we can compete with anybody.”
The Pistons shot a season-best 60.3 percent and got 20-point games from three others in addition to their ascending French teen star. Markieff Morris tied his season high of 23 in his third game back from injury, Svy Mykhailiuk like Doumbouya established a career high with 21 and Derrick Rose scored 22 and didn’t miss a shot inside the 3-point arc, shooting 11 of 13 overall, after being inserted into the starting lineup.
“Everybody came in and played their role,” Dwane Casey said. “The most important thing is the compete level. I loved that because that’s who we have to be.”
When the Pistons won at Indiana to open the season, they got a career-high 30 points from Luke Kennard. The fact he wasn’t in uniform to start the second half goes a long way in explaining the 14-27 record the Pistons compiled in the first half. Blake Griffin missing 23 games and Reggie Jackson 39 around a tsunami of injuries up and down the roster – only Langston Galloway managed to play in all 41 games – goes the rest of the way to explain a frustrating and disappointing first half.
But like that Indiana opener, the Pistons left Boston sensing their possibilities when everybody is able to slot into their designed roles.
The four 20-point scorers combined to shoot 36 of 49. Andre Drummond hit all of his six shots, finishing with 13 points and 13 rebounds while leading a 30-assist performance with seven. Until the Pistons went six straight possessions without scoring midway through the fourth quarter – which saw Boston cut a 21-point deficit to 12 with more than three minutes remaining – there were no droughts or hiccups.
“We watch film and they really pull in on the weak side, so the corner three is usually open,” Bruce Brown said. “Then they help out, so just give that one more pass. We knocked down shots today.”
Brown, playing in his hometown before a large contingent of friends and family, was again assigned to guard Kemba Walker, who shot just 7 of 19 with two assists, and Brown didn’t commit a turnover on a night the Pistons coughed it up only 13 times.
When Boston appeared to surge early in the second quarter when Casey had an all-bench unit in, it was Morris who carried the offense. He shot 2 of 19 in his first two games after a seven-game injury absence and missed his first shot, a corner three, badly before heating up. Morris scored 17 in the first half, 15 in the second quarter, making his last six shots, three of them from the 3-point arc.
“I watched a lot of film the last couple of games,” he said. “They were right there. I was getting up a lot of great looks – just coming up short. I think this game was the game I finally found my legs. Trying to keep going after this.”
The scoring punch Morris lends to the second unit makes it more feasible to keep Rose with the starters, a move Casey said he made to help stem the trend of sluggish starts. Jackson’s return appears imminent, Casey said before Wednesday’s game, and having him available will make it easier for Casey to manage Rose’s minutes.
“I just felt like we had a good feel for the game, whether I was starting or not,” Rose said. “Last couple of games, we’ve just been playing harder and tonight we made sure that we executed.”
Between Doumbouya and Morris, the Pistons got 47 points out of their power forward position on 19 of 27 shooting. Mykhailiuk, who came off the bench with Rose’s insertion into the starting unit, hit 6 of 9 overall and 5 of 8 from the 3-point arc.
“I didn’t think we’d come in and shoot 60 percent against a great defensive team like Boston,” Casey said. “But I thought we’d come in and compete. We competed the other games but we always had that one quarter, one stretch, that would kick us in the behind. Tonight, we kind of pulled it all together for a longer period of time.”