Auburn Hills — Pistons forward Josh Smith won the game twice and nearly lost it once. But the result was a 110-108 Pistons victory Saturday night at the Palace which nearly spoiled a brilliant night of passing and wizardry by point guard Brandon Jennings.
More on that later.
A few games ago Smith had a chance to win a game in New York. But instead of driving to the basket he settled for an ill-timed jump shot. This time he decided to be more aggressive and the payoff was spectacular.
Smith hit what appeared to be the winning 3-point shot with 26.8 seconds remaining to give the Pistons a 108-105 lead. The Pistons were ready to celebrate when Gerald Green missed a 3-point shot with 4.3 remaining. But Smith fouled him on the play and Green sank three free throws to tie the score.
“I didn’t think so,” Smith said when asked if he fouled Green.
On the ensuing rebound Smith drove the lane and flipped a bank shot to give the Pistons the lead with 1.2 seconds left. Green’s desperation 3-pointer fell short. Smith did not appreciate being called being a near goat.
“I wouldn’t say goat,” Smith said. “I would say it was a hard-fought game for us.”
Smith on the winning play: “The last time I had the opportunity in New York I settled for a jump shot and (learned to) be aggressive. I learned from that play I made and I wanted to put the onus on the officials and I was able to get a good look at it.”
The Pistons (16-22) now get five days off before playing Utah Friday at The Palace.
Now to Jennings, who turned into a real point guard Saturday night.
He ran the offense like a point guard. He ran an up-tempo style and found teammates in the creases of the Phoenix Suns defense like a point guard.
There were the alley-oop dunks to Andre Drummond. The off-the-backboard dime to Drummond and the flash and dish to Kyle Singler driving through the lane. Every time Jennings touched the ball the Palace crowd and the Suns held their breaths.
Jennings flirted with a triple-double, finishing with eight points, 18 assists and eight rebounds. Eleven of his assists came in the first quarter when the Pistons were fast breaking and all but break-dancing on the Suns.
“He was a distributor tonight and we ran the floor with him,” Smith said. “He was able to find us.”
But the Pistons do nothing easy. Jennings and the Pistons were one-half wonders as usual.
The first half was charming. The second half a comedy.
Although the Pistons never fell behind, the Suns rallied to tie the score twice.
“It is the NBA,” guard Will Bynum said. “It is a game of runs. They are a good team and made runs but we responded.”
Smith led the Pistons with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Greg Monroe finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Andre Drummond 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Channing Frye had 21 points for Phoenix and PJ Tucker 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The only time Jennings got in trouble was when he tried to shoot. He was 4-for-14 from the field and 0-5 from the 3-point line.
The Pistons squandered an 18-point lead. Phoenix tied it at 92 on a Channing Frye 3-point shot with 6:53 remaining, capping a Suns 12-1 run. The Pistons were sloppy but were saved by rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (nine points) who hit a 3-point shot and scored on a layup thanks to a nice pass from Josh Smith.
Bynum hit some clutch buckets in the second half and finished with 16 points.