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Quick-starting Pistons take on struggling Kings
Andre Drummond has responded to a subpar season with a renewed focus. That's a major reason for the Detroit Pistons' early success.
Detroit (6-3) has won four of its last five games, including a 105-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. The Pistons complete the home back-to-back on Saturday when they face the struggling Sacramento Kings, who have lost six straight.
Drummond, the team's center, led the Pistons with 24 points and 15 rebounds against the Bucks. He's averaging 13.8 points and 14.2 rebounds, along with leading the defense in blocks (10) and steals (18).
Drummond has even been money at the free throw line, making 77.8 percent of his attempts after shooting below 40 percent the last three seasons.
"His maturity has been his biggest improvement," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Obviously, you see the free throw shooting thing and that's a huge improvement but his maturity has been his biggest improvement. He's much more level-headed. Like any player in the heat of the battle, he'll lose it a little (mentally) but he comes back quickly now. You can just talk to him and get his head back in the game."
Another noticeable aspect of the Pistons' quick start has been the effectiveness of the reserves. Detroit's bench is outscoring the opposition's reserves by an average of 7.0 points per game. On Friday, it outscored Milwaukee's bench 38-14.
"Our depth is good," Van Gundy said. "That's one of the things we said going into the year. We thought everybody on our team could contribute and help us win. We're only nine games into the year and I think you can look objectively and see that it's true. That's a lot of people that can help you."
The Kings (1-7) have a multitude of problems but they've been particularly futile at the offensive end. They rank second-to-last in scoring (93.1) and 26th in field-goal percentage (42.7).
"We just struggle to score," Kings coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. "And when you play a team that can score, sometimes that inability let's them be even more free and more loose."
Sacramento hasn't reached 90 points in its last three games, including the first two legs of its three-game road swing. Indiana thumped the Kings 101-83 on Tuesday and Boston manhandled them 113-86 on Wednesday. Their legs should be fresh after two off-days.
Buddy Hield's performance against the Celtics was an encouraging sign. The second-year shooting guard scored a team-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting after being removed from the starting lineup.
He's averaging 11.1 points on 38.7 percent shooting while making just 25.7 percent of his 3-point tries.
"I've never been through a shooting slump like this for a long time," Hield told the Bee. "I had previously once in college but I always had the ball in my hands where I could go get it and get out of it. In the NBA, it's hard to go get the ball because you've got professionals around you, guys that can score the ball, that can do things."
Sacramento swept last season's two-game series.
Detroit reserve forward Jon Leuer is doubtful because of a left ankle sprain.
Updated November 3, 2017