National Basketball Association

Pistons, on back-to-back, host Hawks’ opener

nba1HAWKS (0-0) AT PISTONS (1-0)
7 p.m. ET; FSSE-ATL, FS-D

The Detroit Pistons won their season opener Wednesday without Blake Griffin. They’ll try to duplicate that effort in their home opener on the tail end of a back-to-back set.

The Atlanta Hawks will tip off their season Thursday in Detroit.

Griffin will miss at least the first five games due to hamstring and knee injuries. In his absence Wednesday, the Pistons used the combination of center Andre Drummond’s power and the bench’s shot-making to defeat the Indiana Pacers 119-110 in Indianapolis.

Drummond bulled his way to 32 points, 23 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Swingman Luke Kennard poured in a career-high 30 points off the bench, and the second unit’s new floor leader, Derrick Rose, had 18 points and nine assists in his Pistons debut.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey wants to see that effort duplicated against the Hawks in front of the home crowd.

“The whole thing with us is consistency,” he said. “It’s all for naught if we come out (Thursday) night and lay an egg at home. Hopefully we have a good crowd opening night. We’ll have every excuse in the world, whether it’s (being) without Blake, back-to-back, get in late (Wednesday night). But again, this will show a little mettle for our team in how we respond (Thursday) night.”

Drummond played a team-high 41 minutes and expects more of the same at least until Griffin returns.

“I did a really good job of working on my conditioning. I knew I was going to play a lot of minutes this year, and it showed,” he said during a postgame TV interview. “All the hard work I put in, it showed. I played a lot of minutes and played hard.”

Kennard scored 16 fourth-quarter points.

“He shot the ball well, and I thought his most important improvement was his defensive focus and effort,” Casey said. “That was huge for him to stay in the game and to guard a guy like (Doug) McDermott, a guy like (Jeremy) Lamb. It allowed us to keep him in the game to get 30 points.”

The Hawks, one of just four NBA teams that have yet to make their season debut, are building around a young core after winning 24 games in 2017-18 and 29 last season.

They added two lottery picks, forward De’Andre Hunter and swingman Cam Reddish, to the promising trio of guards Trae Young and Kevin Huerter and power forward John Collins.

Young finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after averaging 19.1 points and 8.1 assists. Collins was the team’s leading scorer (19.5 points per game) and rebounder (9.8 per game).

The Hawks also have the league’s oldest player, 42-year-old Vince Carter, who will provide guidance to a roster that includes 12 players 25 years old or younger.

“We have to believe right now. You have to work and build that mentality right now,” Carter told The Athletic. “Yes, our inexperience and youth is a question mark. I get it. Our approach can sometimes fool our minds sometimes, but what we’re trying to do right now is come out here and prepare that we are destined for the playoffs.”

Guard Evan Turner, who was acquired in a trade from Portland over the summer, will play a key role. He has averaged 9.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 686 career games.

Forward Jabari Parter, who signed a two-year, $13 million contract as a free agent, also will get rotation minutes on the second unit.

–Field Level Media

Leave a Reply