Auburn Hills — Pistons interim coach John Loyer is a screamer. Ten minutes into the Pistons 109-100 victory over the Spurs Monday night at The Palace he sounded like he’d been hollering all day and night.
His voice was hoarse and coarse. That was one of many differences in the Pistons the day after they fired Maurice Cheeks as head coach and replaced him with Loyer for the remainder of the season.
“They are both two different coaches,” guard Brandon Jennings said. “One is loud and the other is kind of laid back. But they are both great guys.”
There were other differences. Will Bynum and Jonas Jerebko were back in the rotation and the Pistons didn’t do their usual second-half fade. They played off the energy of their new coach and, outside of a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, were the dominant team.
The theme of the night was emotion and energy. The Pistons needed all of that to win on an emotional night at The Palace. Loyer carried those emotions into the game and barked commands for much of it. He knew his players needed it because they were all blindsided by the Cheeks firing.
“I have no style. It was my first game,” Loyer said. “I do what I think is best for the team. Some nights are emotional nights and you have to give them more. Some of our guys need reinforcement.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knew the Pistons would play with great energy. They led by as many as 23 points and Popovich threw in the towel in the fourth quarter when he rested starters Tony Parker (11 points and three assists) and Tim Duncan (11 points and eight rebounds.) “They played with physicality and emotion,” Popovich said. “I thought our defense was the worst we played all year in the first half, mentally and physically. I thought we did not bring it and they brought it for a variety of reasons and kicked our (butt).”
The Pistons turned the game into a track meet and attacked the basket. Of course, their fast break was fueled by the injury-plagued and turnover-prone Spurs. San Antonio committed 19 turnovers and the Pistons took advantage with 19 fastbreak points on a night they shot 47.8 percent from the field.
“I told them it was going to be an emotional day,” Loyer said. “I told them that I thought we can play collectively for longer periods of time, better than we have. We had to dig deep and play together. I thought our guys showed great resolve tonight.”
If you are counting at home this is five wins in the last seven games and now the Pistons (22-29) are tied with Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
But this home surge is nothing new. The Pistons have won five straight home games and are averaging 113.0 points a game and shooting 48.3 percent from the field in that stretch.
“We wanted to be able to fly around, be active, but it also coincided with us sharing the basketball and playing together,” forward Josh Smith said. “Whenever we are able to do that, that’s when we pick it up on the defensive end.”
Jennings finished with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds and the Pistons got an added boost off the bench from Rodney Stuckey (20 points).
The Pistons placed five players in double figures and Greg Monroe (15 points and 10 rebounds) recorded his 21st double double.
Here is one more thing we saw the Pistons.
They found Andre Drummond (14 points and nine rebounds) inside for a couple ally-oop dunks and Smith thrilled the crowd with a tomahawk dunk. But the prettiest play came from Jennings, who faked a behind the back pass to Smith, cupped the ball and made a layup. He was fouled on the play, made the free throw and gave the Pistons an 84-62 lead with 2:49 remaining in the third.
He then did a little dance and later won a debate with Drummond as who the best dancer is on the team.
“I will take second,” Drummond told Jennings as he danced out the dressing room.