Pistons beat Thunder for first road victory
Oklahoma City — Five years ago to the day, Brandon Jennings introduced himself to the world with a 55-point game as a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Friday, he reminded impressive Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson that he can heat up at any time, no matter who's in his face.
Jennings' quick, eight-point spurt in overtime was followed by his picking Jackson's pocket for the second time in the second half, leading to a surprising 96-89 win for the Pistons against a game Thunder team missing MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Jennings scored 25 of his 29 points in the second half and overtime. He also had five assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers, arguably his best game as a Piston, or at least his most efficient.
Afterward his coach said the words every point guard wants to hear, words nobody expected the Pistons coach to say after their rocky start to the young season.
"I'm leaving him alone. Really," Stan Van Gundy said. "When you have a guy going that well offensively, you don't want to start micromanaging plays."
Jennings got hot in the second half, much as he did in the first 24 minutes against the Wizards. His step-back triple with Jackson draped over him gave the Pistons an 87-84 lead with 2:39 left.
"He's only 25, he's starting to get it now," Van Gundy said. "He's starting to play efficiently, not just throwing up a bunch of shots."
On the next possession, he drove the lane for a layup, and the Pistons began to run away from the Thunder, mostly due to Jennings' exploits. He wasn't done, though. The "dagger," as he called it, came again with Jackson in his face, and with some friendly chatter from the MVP on the sidelines.
"Once I hit the first one, then I got the layup, I was definitely going to do a heat check," Jennings said. "It's one game, we got 73 more to go. But it is a good feeling to get a win on this road trip."
It didn't look like the Pistons would get their first road win of the season, especially as Jackson and Jeremy Lamb got off early, scoring at will, combining for 21 first-quarter points, helping the Thunder to a nine-point lead.
"My defense was terrible in the second half against Reggie Jackson," Jennings said. "I was really disappointed in the first half, knowing he was getting off like that."
Van Gundy said he'd begun to see improvement in the Pistons' resilience, dating to their comeback from down 19 in Chicago Monday night.
"We don't quit. Last year we would be down 9 or 10 and we would just fold," Jennings said. "Next thing you know we'll be getting blown out."
In the last 41 minutes, though, the Pistons held the Thunder to 59 points, as they received a lift from their undermanned second unit and Andre Drummond grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Steven Adams scored 11 for the Thunder and Serge Ibaka scored 19 but took 20 shots to get there, and struggled keeping Drummond off the glass — and Monroe from scoring.
"We know the offensive side hasn't come around at the start of the season," Drummond said. "It's really been frustrating for me. ... I decided to focus on the defensive end and let the offense come to me."
The Pistons shot 43 percent, but they had more than enough offense without having to force it in to Drummond. Greg Monroe, who had a plus-minus of plus-30, scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Josh Smith bounced back from an airballed free throw and a technical foul to break from his shooting lethargy, scoring 18 points and hitting two of four from 3-point range.
Aside from Jonas Jerebko's hustle plays and 12 points (six rebounds), the Pistons bench again struggled to score. Jerebko, Kyle Singler and Caron Butler (eight rebounds) contributed in different ways, setting the stage for Jennings.
"Defense and rebounding got us to the point to give Brandon a chance to have his flurry," Van Gundy said. "You can question our execution. We're showing our toughness. That's a very good sign. We need to be more consistent and execute more down the stretch."