Pistons handle Hornets, win debut in new arena
DETROIT — Tobias Harris stole the show early at the Detroit Pistons’ new downtown building. His teammates then maintained a comfortable lead by making one steal after another.
Harris poured in 27 points, and the Pistons celebrated the first regular-season game at Little Caesars Arena with a 102-90 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night.
Harris scored 17 first-quarter points and the Pistons led throughout the last three quarters.
“I was able to get off in a good rhythm, taking what the defense gave me,” said Harris, who also grabbed 10 rebounds. “My teammates were able to find me on some really good plays. There was a lot of energy out there today and we just used that and embraced that.”
Detroit collected 14 steals and scored 25 points off turnovers. Charlotte only scored six points off the Pistons’ nine turnovers.
“We need that,” Pistons guard Avery Bradley said. “That’s something Coach (Stan Van Gundy) emphasizes every single practice, getting deflections or being able to get steals, making everything hard on the offense. That’s what we did tonight and that’s what kind of team we have to be.”
Bradley, who was acquired in a trade with the Boston Celtics during the summer, had 15 points in his Pistons debut. Langston Galloway contributed 16 points off the bench, and another reserve, Henry Ellenson, tossed in 13. Reggie Jackson added 13 points and eight assists.
“We’d love to get off to a great start in the season and get our crowd into it and everything else,” Van Gundy said. “It was a good first night here.”
Kemba Walker’s 24 points led the Hornets in the opener for both teams. Jeremy Lamb added 15 points, and Dwight Howard supplied 10 points and 15 rebounds in his Hornets debut. Howard was acquired in an offseason trade with the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s very difficult (playing from behind), especially against a team like Detroit. They play better when the crowd is into the game,” Howard said. “We didn’t get a chance to get up and down the floor, get easy steals and get out in transition. So, it was a good learning experience for us.”
The Hornets played without two starters, small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and shooting guard Nicolas Batum. Kidd-Gilchrist missed the game for a personal matter, and Batum is sidelined by a torn ligament in his left elbow.
The Hornets struggled to cover Harris without the defensive cohesion that Kidd-Gilchrist and Batum bring.
“We really let Tobias Harris play to his strengths early and that put us in the hole,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “But the biggest factor in the whole game was the turnovers. It started early in the first quarter and a lot of it you have to give them credit for.”
Charlotte trailed by 11 at halftime and never got closer than six points in the third quarter. Bradley’s three-point play and Ellenson’s jumper gave Detroit an 80-63 lead late in the quarter.
Walker capped a 7-0 Hornets spurt with a 3-pointer to make it 91-81. He drained two free throws with 1:42 left to cut Detroit’s lead to single digits at 97-89. Harris then drilled a 3-pointer to effectively put the game away.
The Pistons led 82-70 heading into the fourth quarter. Galloway’s steal and 3-point basket in the opening minute of the quarter stretched the advantage to 15. Ellenson’s 3-point shot a minute later made it a 20-point game.
Harris and Galloway led the Pistons to a 56-45 halftime lead. Harris scored 19 first-half points. Galloway fired in 11 of his 13 first-half points in the second quarter, including a four-point play.
“The thing with Langston and even Tobias tonight I was happy with, is if you’re open, shoot the ball,” Van Gundy said. “That’s the way you’ve got to play.”
NOTES: Hornets PG Michael Carter-Williams (knee soreness) did not play. ... The Pistons’ last game in the city of Detroit was at Joe Louis Arena on May 10, 1985. ... The Pistons defeated the Hornets 94-85 in their inaugural game at their previous home, The Palace of Auburn Hills, on Nov. 5, 1988. ... Detroit C Andre Drummond passed Dave DeBusschere for sixth place on the franchise’s career rebounding list. ... Charlotte coach Steve Clifford had no hesitation starting rookie SF Dwayne Bacon, a second-round pick. “He can play a role where he’s not overmatched physically by these guys,” Clifford said. Bacon scored eight points. ... Pistons SG Reggie Bullock began his five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.