Shorthanded Pistons get lift from bench to stay hot in win over Pacers

DETROIT – It took all of six games for Stan Van Gundy to use every member of his roster in a meaningful moment – and it only took that long because Reggie Bullock was unavailable for the first five.

It took 11 games for all 14 Pistons to contribute to a win. Boban Marjanovic completed the picture in Wednesday’s 114-97 win over Indiana.

“Every team I’ve been on, there’s usually two or three, four guys that probably aren’t going to play that much, probably aren’t going to contribute much at all,” said Anthony Tolliver, a man who’s been on a lot of teams – nine, including two tours of duty with the Pistons. “But we’ve got a deep team here. It’s not just eight or nine of us. That’s what Coach talked about at the beginning of the year. Each of us are going to have our time. Sometimes you’re going to have to sacrifice and not be playing for a while, like Boban. I don’t know the last time he played, but he came in and did what he does. He came in and gave us a big boost.”

Andre Drummond picked up two quick fouls and Van Gundy went first with Eric Moreland. But Moreland gives away a lot of bulk and experience to Al Jefferson, one of the craftiest in the dwindling breed of post scorers. When Jefferson went on a personal 7-0 run late in the first quarter, Van Gundy summoned the 7-foot-4 Marjanovic from his bench.

In less than seven first-half minutes, Marjanovic contributed nine points, four rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot.

He wasn’t the only Van Gundy reserve who’s been in and out of the rotation to help mightily. Langston Galloway scored nine of his 12 in the first half. Luke Kennard had a solid run. Tolliver scored just three points, but also added four assists and joined Galloway in finishing plus-13.

Not only were the Pistons missing two rotation mainstays – Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer, out with injury – but Drummond and Avery Bradley were limited to 12 and nine first-half minutes by foul trouble. And still the Pistons came back from 11 down early in the second quarter to lead by seven at halftime.

“We had talked about that today,” Van Gundy said. “About everybody getting an opportunity. And we’re only 11 games in and literally all 14 guys have made significant contributions at one point or another. Players hear it all the time: ‘Everybody’s going to get their opportunity.’ We’re only 11 games in and it’s come true.”

Bullock started for Johnson, based mostly on the fit with a matchup on Pacers shooter Bojan Bogdanovic. He hit his first triple of the season after missing nine straight, but contributed with two back cuts for layups, three assists and solid defense while scoring seven points. Ish Smith had 10 points and five assists.

Van Gundy’s mainstays nailed it down in the second half, scoring 47 of the 55 Pistons points with Tobias Harris scoring 15 of his 23, Andre Drummond 10 of his 14 and Reggie Jackson 12 of his 18. But even then, the bench contributed heavily to the critical 8-0 run in the first 1:03 that more than doubled the seven-point lead the Pistons held after three quarters.

Tolliver set up a Drummond dunk, Smith hit Bullock for his triple, then Smith found Tolliver for a transition triple.

“They’ve been really solid for us all year,” said Harris, whose hot 3-point shooting – he’s now at .471 and is averaging three made triples a game – continued with 5 of 9 from the arc. “Especially the start of the fourth quarter, they were able to expand the lead for us. But it’s a collective effort. Two rotation guys out, but the biggest thing with us is everybody knows their name could be called at any moment. Just have to be ready to step in and help the team.”

Drummond’s big second half – he also picked up 14 of his season-best 21 rebounds then – overshadowed a nightmarish throwback night at the foul line in which he missed all seven attempts.

“At times the missed free throws messed with him a little bit,” Van Gundy said. “The only thing we talked to him about is, he’s a great player, keep your head in the game. Be solid. Play your game and help us get a win. Nothing else matters.”

And they’ve managed to get a win eight times in 11 tries this year, using everyone on the roster to get it done.

“It’s always good to have people contribute, but that’s just a testament to each of the guys that are on this team,” Tolliver said. “We’re not forced to stay ready; each of us, we have to take the responsibility to do that. So far this year, everybody’s done that really well.”

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