Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey challenged his team to overcome the Hawks’ league-leading pace of play by beating Atlanta in transition and forcing turnovers.
They succeeded on both fronts in Friday’s 124-109 win at State Farm Arena.
Although the Hawks entered the game ranked third in the NBA in turnovers forced (17.6), the Pistons won the turnover battle Friday, scoring 23 points off 16 Hawks turnovers while committing only 10 turnovers.
The Pistons (6-5) also totaled 24 points off fast breaks compared with the Hawks’ 16 and had 10 steals compared with the Hawks’ six.
Simply put, they beat the Hawks in every facet of Friday’s game and were lacking in effort, according to Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce.
Quickly into the first quarter, Pierce took out all his starters and put in the group of Kevin Huerter, Alex Poythress, DeAndre’ Bembry, Dewayne Dedmon and Alex Lin because of his starters’ lack of effort.
“Right off the bat, a slow start, sluggish,” Pierce said. “Our starting group, whether at halftime or the start of the game, was just slacking, lacking in the effort department and we got to figure it out.”
Andre Drummond and Stanley Johnson, two of seven Pistons players to score in double-digits, led the team with 23 and 22 points respectively.
Blake Griffin, who entered the game averaging 27.3 points, didn’t take a shot in the first quarter. Drummond scored 12 points and Reggie Bullock scored 10. Griffin, who finished the game 2-of-10 from the field for six points, didn’t take a shot until late in the second quarter, a missed 3-pointer, and made his first shot halfway through the third quarter.
The Hawks, who shot 8-of-22 from the field and made 1 of 10 shots from the 3-point line in the first quarter, picked up the pace on offense after they allowed the Pistons to score 40 points. But they were unable to erase a disastrous 20-point deficit over the next 36 minutes.
“They worked together right from the start, and I think that’s a testament to Dwane,” Pierce said of the Pistons’ early explosion. “He’s got a new group, it’s his first year there. He’s doing a great job with those guys, but they’re moving the basketball and playing with the energy and spirit that we’re trying to find.”
At the half, the Pistons shot .583 from the field and made 11-of-23 shots from the 3-point line and had five players — Drummond, Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, Reggie Jackson and Johnson — scoring in double digits. The Hawks had none.
The Hawks were down 74-51 at the end of the first half.
The Hawks (3-9) spent the second quarter and the entire second half going toe-to-toe with the Pistons, but the 20-point deficit haunted the Hawks for the remainder of the game.
Jeremy Lin scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and overall led the team with 19 total points.
“If you’re going to lead the game, lead with some momentum, and (Lin’s) out there competing and the shots are falling, which is good to see, but I think for all our guys it’s just starting that way,” Pierce said. “We can’t afford to do it only because we’re down 20 or 25, or whatever it is.”
In the first quarter, it was rookie Omari Spellman who shined in the midst of a disastrous game.
Coming off a game in which he recorded a team-high of 18 points and 10 rebounds, Spellman wast 5-of-10 from the field and had two 3-pointers after leading the Hawks with nine points at the half. Spellman’s effort on defense in his fourth start was also noticeable as he dove for a loose ball in the second quarter even though Hawks were down 21 points.
Hawks leading scorer Trae Young, who was 2-of-6 for four points in the first half, warmed up in the second half and finished the game 4-of-9 with eight free throws for 16 points and five assists. Young also was responsible for five of the Hawks’ turnovers.
The Hawks finished Friday’s loss shooting .456 from the field were 7-of-28 beyond the arc even though the Pistons entered the game fifth-worst in league in allowed 3-point average (.325).
“We usually play with one of the better paces in the NBA,” Spellman said. “We lead the league in corner 3’s attempted, we’re fourth in 3’s attempted total. ... We play with a fast pace, and we try to create turnovers and try to get out running, and they were just better at that than us tonight.”
The Pistons also beat the Hawks in assists, finishing the game with 30 assists compared to the Hawks’ 17.
The Hawks head on a four-game road trip beginning at 9:30 p.m. Sunday at the Los Angeles Lakers.