Harris leads Pistons over Hornets in opener
Tobias Harris demurred — at first.
After showing off a diverse offensive game in scoring 27 points in the Detroit Pistons’ 102-90 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night — the season opener for both teams — he was asked about season goals.
With the NBA’s star power moving to the Western Conference, is making the All-Star Game a personal goal?
He started mentioning team goals and the importance of winning.
Then he admitted the midseason celebration is in the back of his mind.
“As a player, obviously that’s one of my goals as a player,” Harris said. “You got to play the game to be one of the best players you can be and I feel that as a player, I have dreams and aspirations in hopefully getting to that point.”
It’s only one game.
But on a night of many heroes, as the Pistons christened Little Caesars Arena, Harris stood tall in making the night a rousing success.
Reggie Jackson, who struggled last season with a sore left knee, was solid.
Avery Bradley, the off-season acquisition, was as good as advertised.
But it was Harris who jumpstarted the evening, scoring 17 points in the first quarter.
With NBA commissioner Adam Silver and many other Detroit celebrities in attendance, including Eminem, Harris finished 11-for-18 from the field and 4-for-7 from three-point range.
And his dagger three-pointer with 1:11 remaining gave the Pistons a 100-89 lead.
He also grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out three assists.
“He was incredible in the first quarter, 17 in the first, he really got it going,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He was really good, double-figure rebounding night for him, so outstanding.”
Jackson played a masterful floor game with 13 points, eight assists and no turnovers, and Bradley scored 15 points in his Pistons debut.
Center Andre Drummond finished with eight points (2-for-2 on free throws), 13 rebounds and four assists and two blocks.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 24 points.
Harris was on the attack from the outset, scoring 12 of the Pistons’ first 18 points.
His three-pointer at the 6:41 mark of the first quarter gave the Pistons a 16-8 lead.
His floater less than a minute later gave the Pistons an 18-12 lead.
“I was able to get off in a good rhythm, taking what the defense gave me,” Harris said. “My teammates were able to find me on some really good plays.
“We were just playing together, just being able to use our defensive intensity to get some stops and get out in transition.”
The Pistons' largest lead in the first half was 50-36 with 4:25 to play, after Langston Galloway’s three-pointer and free throw from a double-technical foul against Eric Moreland and Hornets center Dwight Howard.
Howard posted 10 points and 15 rebounds for Charlotte.
The largest lead of the game came early in the fourth quarter when a Henry Ellenson three-pointer gave the Pistons an 88-70 lead.
Some other observations:
The surprise: Ellenson played so well in the preseason that he forced Van Gundy’s hand in deactivating veteran Anthony Tolliver for the opener. The second-year power forward delivered with 13 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes on 5-for-10 shooting, including 2-for-4 on threes.
The bench mob: Langston Galloway, signed in the off-season, came off the bench firing, scoring 16 points and he was 3-for-6 from three-point range. The bench outscored the Hornets' bench, 37-26. ... Pistons first-round rookie Luke Kennard did not play.
Center rotation: Moreland, signed in the off-season for the veteran minimum, was the backup behind Drummond. Boban Marjanovic, who will make $7 million this season, did not enter the game.
Shooting blanks: Third-year forward Stanley Johnson missed all 13 of his shot attempts, but Van Gundy left him on the floor for a team-high 40 minutes. Johnson did have four steals and four rebounds.
According to the Twitter account NBA Math, Johnson is the 13th player to go 0-for-13 or worse since 1983. Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors was the last player to accomplish the lowlight when he did it in 2012.
Sticky fingers: Van Gundy is implementing a more aggressive defensive philosophy and the Pistons forced 17 turnovers, which led to 25 points. The Pistons also had 14 steals.