Pistons look to flip the script at the free-throw line

Detroit News

New Orleans — There was a stark difference in a two-game span for the Pistons in getting to the free-throw line. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, they had a season-low six attempts (and five makes).

The Pistons flipped the script on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, with season highs, going 29-of-35. The momentum started early, as they made all eight of their attempts in the first half and went 14-of-15 in the second quarter, helping to push to a 60-52 lead at halftime.

Jerami Grant was the main catalyst, getting to the free-throw line 15 times himself, and putting more pressure on the Wizards’ defense. Coach Dwane Casey said it was the Pistons’ best performance this season, in terms of getting to the line.

“I thought Jerami did his best job of getting to the rim and playing off two feet, using this pump-fakes wisely. I thought all of our guys did that,” Casey said Friday. “We’ve been preaching it, but instincts go in and we’ve been working on it, coming to two (feet), and pump fake.

“I think (Grant) had three of those the other night, and we had some other guys, but I think that’s the most important thing, going in and not trying to finesse it, but you initiate the contact, get ready for the verticality, draw the contact and finish. I thought that was our best game of going in intentionally to create that — but most importantly playing off two feet.”

Grant’s 14-of-15 night from the free-throw line included season highs in both attempts and makes and accounted for half of his team-high 28 points.

The Pistons entered Friday’s game averaging 17.2 made free throws, ranking fourth in the league, and 21.8 attempts, which ranked third.Green and Detroit

New Orleans Pelicans coach Willie Green is in his first season at the helm. Green, a Detroit native who played at Detroit Cooley, has worked his way up the ranks as an assistant coach at Golden State and Phoenix.

In his playing career, Green bounced around, spending most of his time with the Philadelphia 76ers before moving to play in New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

He’s never really let go of his Detroit roots, and that still comes through, even when the Pistons are the opponent.

“I always keep an eye on any Detroit team. I grew up watching Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars and (Bill) Laimbeer and those guys,” Green said. “When I think about the Pistons, I think about those years and then even Chauncey (Billups), Rip (Hamilton) and Ben Wallace.

“I’m always watching, and I won’t necessarily say I’m rooting for them, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out and I get some calls from time to time about how they’re doing.”

Green said he’s also kept an eye on Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham and the impact he’s had in the early part of his career.

“Good player. Dynamic at attacking the basket. He’s been getting better,” Green said. “It seems like the more he’s playing, he’s getting more comfortable with picking his spots, shooting the ball better and better. … He’s got just a grown-man game. He’s fun to watch and it’ll be a challenge for us.”

Gores gives back

Pistons team owner Tom Gores has pledged a contribution of $350,000 to SAY Detroit, a nonprofit focused on improving the city’s neighborhoods. The donation includes $100,000 specifically to help create an entrepreneurial program for youth at the SAY Detroit Play Center.

“I want them to be able to build a business product in an entrepreneurial program we could put together in the summer,” Gores said in a statement. “I’m willing to fund the kids’ idea — whatever it is. Hopefully they’re able to make a profit and those profits can go right back to the center.”

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