Drummond has career day in win over 76ers
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Andre Drummond knows he’s a poor free-throw shooter. He still doesn’t like it when teams make an effort to remind him.
On an afternoon when the Philadelphia 76ers started intentionally fouling him in the third quarter, the 20-year-old forward responded with a performance the NBA hasn’t seen in 23 years.
Drummond sat out the end of the third quarter after missing nine of 12 free throws in the period, but in the 34 minutes he did play, he became the first player to have 31 points, 19 rebounds and six steals in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1990. He set career highs in all three categories, two days after Maurice Cheeks left him on the bench for the last 21 minutes of Detroit’s loss to the Lakers.
“That’s a slap in the face for any player, so you get fired up,” said Drummond, who also blocked two shots. “You can’t get angry and lose your focus, though. I just told myself it was a good chance to work on my free-throw shooting and put some points on the board.”
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, who watched Gregg Popovich use the strategy during his days as an assistant in San Antonio, said he didn’t enjoy the idea, but thought it was his team’s only chance when it trailed by 24 points at halftime.
“It is one of the ugly parts of the game,” Brown said. “You do not really like doing it, but it is a rule and it helped our team.”
The Pistons are used to the strategy — Popovich was one of several coaches to use it against Ben Wallace — but not usually in the third quarter. Drummond, though, is a unique case. He might be the worst free-throw shooter in league history — he entered the game shooting 27 percent from the line — and Detroit collapsed late against the Lakers with him on the bench.
“Andre’s a great young player, but I told him tonight that he needs to learn from this,” Cheeks said. “If he becomes a better free-throw shooter, no one will be able to knock him out of a game.”
At one point, the Sixers immediately fouled Drummond on three straight possessions, forcing Cheeks to take him out of the game. The strategy worked, as Philadelphia cut the margin to 94-82 going into the fourth, and the Pistons had to put Drummond back into the game.
“I left him in there long enough to see how well he was going to shoot, because he was having a great game, but there comes a point where you have to take him out,” Cheeks said. “They broke the rhythm of the game — that’s why you do it — and I didn’t want that to keep happening.”
Drummond, though, changed things in the fourth. He finished off a three-point play and then swished a pair of free throws to give the Pistons a 103-85 lead with 9:04 to play. That kept Brown from intentionally fouling him until they trailed by 19 with 4:03 left. Drummond split a pair of shots before coming out of the game, just short of Detroit’s first 30/20 night since Dennis Rodman in 1991.
“When you do anything over and over, you get better at it,” he said. “My teammates kept telling me to take my time, and I hit more of them toward the end.”
Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith each added 20 points for the Pistons, while Thaddeus Young had 24 for Philadelphia before fouling out late in the game.
The Sixers play at a much higher pace than the Pistons, so a up-tempo first half should have played right into their hands. Instead, it was Detroit that dominated, scoring 40 points in the first quarter and leading by as many as 25 on the way to the 70-46 lead. The Pistons outshot Philadelphia 55.1 percent to 39.1 percent, and had a 31-14 advantage on the boards.
Jennings dominated his matchup with rookie Michael Carter-Williams in the half, outscoring him 13-8 and dishing out 11 assists to just three for Carter-Williams. Drummond also had a first-half double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Pistons had five players score in double figures in the half, while Philadelphia didn’t have any.
“It’s pretty obvious that we need to come out better,” Carter-Williams said. “We’re fine scoring the ball, but we need to play defense. It’s a team thing, and we have to put the pieces together.”
NOTES: Detroit native Bob Seger was in attendance and conducted the crowd in a sing-a-long of his hit “Old Time Rock-n-Roll” during a first-half timeout. … Detroit wore its dark-blue “Motor City” jerseys for the second straight home game, while Philadelphia wore its white jerseys.