One game doesn’t mean anything, but the Detroit Pistons put on what was probably their best performance of the season with the switch from Maurice Cheeks to interim coach John Loyer happening in the background and abruptly making Brandon Jennings into a superstar point guard overnight, while the rest of the team started playing defense like it should be.
The Pistons came away with a 109-100 win over the San Antonio Spurs in a game that wasn’t really that close. The Spurs got back to a single digit lead in garbage time, but this one was all Pistons from the second quarter onward. Defense generates fast breaks and transition attacks, which is the best way for Brandon Jennings to avoid his weaknesses regarding his half court decision making. Andre Drummond and Josh Smith were very hard to score against, the Pistons forced 19 turnovers with 13 steals, scoring 26 points off of them.
For Jennings, a signing that is just another in the long list of decisions that might get Joe Dumars fired at the end of the season, this was a game that showed what kind of basketball makes him flourish. He ran point with speed but while considering the players next to him instead of making it his usual one-man mission to put points on the scoreboard no matter what he sees in front of him.
Jennings scored 21 points, leading the Pistons who had their entire starting five scoring in double figures. Greg Monroe, probably slightly bothered with his contract situation and where he’ll be playing next season, finished with a 15-10 double double, and Andre Drummond had 14-9 game in only 26 minutes. Rodney Stuckey added 20 points coming off the bench.
I told the guys today, just when we were in the locker room, I’m so proud of them. I only thought there was about a three-minute period where they showed more energy, more determination than us. You show determination, hustle for 45 of the 48 minutes, you’re going to be pretty successful most nights. I told them it was going to be an emotional day. I told them I thought we can play, collectively, for longer periods of time better than we have.
Right now it doesn’t seem like Loyer is going to be the long-term fix or hiring, but he got the job done on his first night. Brandon Jennings described the two men (Cheeks and Loyer) as different. One is more laid back (Cheeks) and the other loves to shout a lot. Maybe it’s exactly what this bunch needed – instead of a friend or father figure, someone who’ll be a bit more aggressive with them, and will actually do some coaching.
The Spurs lost for the second time in three games as they continue their never ending road trip (five down, four more to go). They’re still missing Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, and those absences clearly show on their defensive side, their ability to protect the glass (18 offensive rebounds for Detroit) and the help Parker gets in running the game.
The worst thing is further slipping down the pecking chart in the Western conference, now 3.5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the Blazers right behind them, waiting to overtake their place.