Detroit Pistons' bench surge moves Pistons into 7th in East

MIAMI — Dwane Casey may have stumbled upon a new motivational technique. The Pistons coach benched struggling backup swingman Langston Galloway in the first half on Saturday night’s key matchup against the Heat in favor of rookie Khyri Thomas. After an uneventful four minutes from Thomas, Casey went back to Galloway in the second half. Good call. Galloway scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter of the Pistons’ 119-96 blowout of the Heat at American Airlines Arena. The surging Pistons (28-30) have won seven of nine and the first two games out of the NBA All-Star break to move into seventh in the Eastern Conference, 1 ½ games behind the sixth-place Nets. The Pistons are two games in front of the Heat (26-32) and lead the season series 2-1 with one game remaining: at Miami on March 13. It was a rare night for bench success. Ish Smith was the leading scorer with 22 points and Luke Kennard added 17 points. But it was Galloway’s night. Shooting less than 30 percent on open 3-pointers for the season, Galloway caught fire with four 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter. He was fouled on his final 3-pointer, drawing a fist pump from Casey. He completed the four-point play to give the Pistons a 105-84 lead with 6:54 to go in the fourth quarter and fans started heading for the exits. The Pistons outscored the Heat, 35-20, in the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin scored 20 points and Andre Drummond added 12 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. Smith added nine assists. Wayne Ellington, who was with the Heat earlier this season, scored six points. The Pistons took advantage of an injured opponent. Point guard Goran Dragic played 15 minutes after missing more than two months after knee surgery. The Heat was also missing Justise Winslow (left knee soreness) and James Johnson (shoulder sprain). When Heat starter Rodney McGruder left the game at halftime due to a bruised knee, former Michigan player Duncan Robinson started the second half. He made one of two 3-point attempts. The Pistons' lack of length on the perimeter was exposed toward the end of the first quarter. The Heat made eight straight shots to end the first 12 minutes, with many coming from players simply shooting over Pistons defenders. Dwyane Wade got inside easily with Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson hitting pullup jumpers. The Heat took a 29-20 lead into the second quarter after shooting 56.5 percent. Waiters scored eight points to lead the way. After yet another night of negative plus-minuses during Friday night’s victory at Atlanta , the Pistons bench played well on Saturday. Faced with a nine-point deficit, the bench started a defensive stand that held the Heat to 17 points and 21 percent shooting in the second quarter. Kennard scored 10 points in the quarter.