Phoenix — Conventional wisdom goes out the window when you're knocking on infamy's doorstep, when carefully constructed game plans turn futile and you're facing the prospect of going nearly 30 days without feeling the simple satisfaction of an NBA victory.
All the stops were pulled Friday, as Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy went back to Greg Monroe in the starting lineup, used Jodie Meeks for the first time this season and even did what he's been previously reluctant to, playing his two point guards simultaneously.
The Pistons were desperate, doing everything they could to counteract the balanced Phoenix Suns attack.
Buzzer-beating triples, passionate pleas to the officials followed by calm diplomacy when the emotion died down, but in the end, they had to make plays, and did just enough to beat the Suns, 105-103, at U.S. Airways Arena.
Easy, it surely wasn't, and the ending will never be confused with being smooth or a coaching clinic, as the Pistons nearly gave it away multiple times in the final minutes.
Andre Drummond, an unlikely figure to be sure, hit one of his two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to give the Pistons a two-point lead before the Suns' final attempt made its way to Drummond's massive mitts before the buzzer sounded, ending the misery, punctuating his 23-point, 14-rebound night.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the player who was alleged to have "no heart" by Suns forward Markieff Morris during their earlier meeting, hit a corner 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining to break a 97-all game, and the quiet kid shot a cool stare at the Suns bench on the way downcourt, the last of his 14 points.
"Ha! Nah, I did kind of look at the bench or whatever, let them know I do have heart. I'll take that shot any day," Caldwell-Pope said with a bit of a grin afterwards. "It felt good. Jodie had a nice cut to the basket, (Eric) Bledsoe helped and I was wide open. I spotted up and knocked the shot down."
Meeks played 22 minutes off the bench, hitting four of his 10 shots to score 12. Meeks, who's rather mild in most instances, was fouled with eight seconds left after a Goran Dragic layup, and after his two made free throws, pounded his chest in joy.
"It'll take us some time to build a package, but we've been saying he's a guy we can run offense through," Van Gundy said. "He gives us a chance to make some plays. He reads defenses really well."
Those makes were a contrast to Josh Smith, who missed two free throws with 20 seconds left and the Pistons up three, a puzzling occurrence considering Van Gundy pulled Andre Drummond from the game due to his free throw maladies.
Smith, who shot 49 percent from the line entering the game, probably shouldn't have been on the floor either, and was positioned to ruin what was a hard-played game on the defensive end with a couple bricks at the line.
"What we probably should've done, quite honestly, is I shouldn't have taken him out, but I should've had him inbound the ball," Van Gundy said. "That was my fault."
Smith blocked two shots, including one dunk and a 3-point attempt from P.J. Tucker, in the first quarter, setting a defensive tone. He stole an inbounds pass as the first quarter ended, hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 28.
Smith finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Monroe had trouble finishing early on, making just three of nine shots. The Pistons shot 50 percent in the first half and 48 percent overall.
"Other than the turnovers, our offense was a lot better," Van Gundy said. "I thought our halfcourt defense was a lot better. We had a lot of trouble getting back on them in transition but I thought our half-court defense was pretty good."
They had trouble again containing Dragic (18 points) and Bledsoe (16 points), the Suns' two-headed monster at point guard but the pair could muster only three attempts in the fourth quarter.
But they kept Miles Plumlee off the glass after a quick start, and outrebounded the Suns 47-37, which made up for the Pistons' lackluster 4-of-15 3-point shooting.
Pretty, it wasn't.
But for a fourth win, it didn't have to be.