Pistons down Cavaliers to finish preseason
East Lansing — The Pistons were the road team in a game in Michigan.
But they seemed to be right at home from beyond the arc and flashed some of what coach Dwane Casey has been preaching all preseason about how the offense will work.
It started with Blake Griffin and quickly spread, as the Pistons cruised to a 129-110 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Breslin Center on Friday night.
The Pistons finished the preseason 2-3, with a decisive win ahead of Wednesday’s regular-season opener.
Griffin finished with 29 points and five assists and Andre Drummond 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who had 69 points in the first half. The Pistons led, 86-76 in the third quarter but the Cavs had an 11-2 spurt to pull within one.
Langston Galloway (15 points) ended the run with a 3-pointer and 22 seconds later added a four-point play with another 3pointer. Ish Smith (16 points and nine assists) finished the quarter with a crossover and jumper for a 97-91 lead heading into the fourth.
That started a 14-0 run over the first four minutes of the period and the Pistons pulled away from there.
Here are some observations from the Pistons’ victory over the Cavs:
Threes are falling
The Pistons had struggled from beyond the 3point arc for most of the preseason, with some odd shot selection and some looks that just didn’t fall. They turned things around Friday, going 10-of-18 (56 percent) in the first half, with two each from Griffin, Reggie Jackson, Smith and Luke Kennard.
Beyond the makes, they set up better looks by moving the ball around and creating the prime opportunities. The 35 points in the first quarter and 69 points at halftime were due to their improved looks on offense and free-flowing offense, with Griffin getting going early and staying hot.
The shooting touch spread in the third quarter, as Galloway hit a 3-pointer with 48.1 seconds left, then another for a four-point play. Smith found Jackson for a 3-pointer to start the fourth, which fueled the 14-0 run bridging the third and fourth periods.
The Pistons finished at 48 percent from 3-point range (21of-45), easily their best showing of the preseason.
While many fans will continue to question and sneer at Griffin’s contract, he showed Friday why he’s so valuable to the Pistons — with his versatility. Griffin handled the ball on the perimeter and facilitated, but started the game using his size and muscle, getting in the paint for an easy layup over the Cavaliers’ Sam Dekker. For many power forwards, Griffin is going to be a severe mismatch, as was the case against Cleveland.
Griffin finished an efficient 11-of-17 from the field and was 3of-4 on 3-pointers.
Old Reggie, new Reggie
After an injury scare in Wednesday’s game, Jackson returned with some pep in his step.
Jackson got off to a good start, with a pair of 3-pointers and a nifty lob to Drummond for an alley-oop in the first quarter.
Jackson played 14 minutes in the first half, on his way to 25 minutes for the game, a nice increase in minutes to try to get Jackson prepared for the start of the season this week.
It’s the type of burst that the Pistons were looking for from Jackson, but they’ll also be looking for consistency into the second half. He hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in a game in the preseason so the next step in his progression will be increased minutes.
Aside from the groin issues, which seem to be not be affecting Jackson, he’s looked about as good as they could have expected in the preseason.
Smith had a standout performance, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and controlling the pace with the ball and distributing well.
He’s not known for his 3point shooting but he’s worked all offseason on improving it and it’s starting to show. He had the second unit rolling at a fast pace and his own ability to hit helped push the others.
Despite his toe issues, Stanley Johnson was able to start and the starting group played well together, which is a good harbinger for the regular season. It’s likely going to be Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Johnson, Griffin and Drummond who end up starting, but it’s also a good bench.
Pistons center Andre Drummond, right, is fouled by Cavaliers forward Channing Frye on Friday in East Lansing.