Smith-less Pistons snap 12-game home losing skid
Auburn Hills — If the Pistons crowd came to see a throwback performance from the Temptations' halftime act, they received an extra treat in the form of a throw-ahead show from the Pistons.
The Pistons put together their best end-to-end offensive performance in their first game without Josh Smith, ending their 12-game home losing streak with a 119-109 win over the Indiana Pacers at The Palace Friday night.
Andre Drummond fought through foul trouble to put up 20 points and six rebounds, while Greg Monroe had 19 points and 15 rebounds. Those two will have to pick up things on the interior with Smith gone — and they seemed eager and energetic, along with the rest of the crew.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he didn't work on offense during the four-day break between games, but you certainly couldn't tell from the numbers, as the Pistons shot 55 percent from the field and turned it over just 11 times, playing cohesively and freely.
"What speaks to my coaching probably better than anything is we spend three days working on nothing but defense," he said. "We give up 109 points and 50 percent (field-goal percentage). (But) our offense was fantastic. They came in as the eighth-best defensive team of the year. For us to have our best offensive game of the year was pretty remarkable."
He was worried about his team's youth leading to more mistakes, but the positive aspect of a team with a starting lineup whose average age is less than 24 should be boundless boundless energy, with fast feet, springy legs and quick hands.
The Pistons forced 18 turnovers, scored 56 points in the paint and amassed their highest point total of the year.
Not even the "Hack-a-Drummond" tactic used in the final four minutes had a huge effect.
"I'm gonna make them pay," said Drummond, who made one of his four free throws being intentionally fouled. "Just one of these days it'll turn. I work every single day. One day it'll affect somebody."
Jumping on a team early allows a team to play with comfort, and the Pistons' 32 points in the first marked their second-highest-scoring quarter of the season.
There was certainly an abundance of opportunities for the Pistons' other main cogs on the Pistons, considering how much of the offense was designed for Drummond to make plays.
Jennings got to play maestro.
Monroe received touches in the post, and made multiple jumpers he's been reluctant to take.
Drummond was all smiles, seemingly having fun again.
Was all this because of Smith's absence, or is it a convenient excuse to pin everything on the player who carried the most weight on the floor?
"It happens with all teams, trades and different things go on," Drummond said. "We just have to figure each other out and things will turn for us."
Time will bear that out, but for once The Palace fans could cheer the team in white, especially as they heckled Roy Hibbert after he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
Hibbert was one of the main offensive options, especially after Rodney Stuckey went down in the third with a facial contusion after being nailed by Drummond on a layup attempt. Hibbert scored 19 in 23 minutes while Solomon Hill, Luis Scola and C.J. Watson each scored 14 for a Pacers team that shot 50 percent in a rare offensive display.
But the Pistons had more than enough offense to combat the Pacers. Seven Pistons scored in double figures. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 15 and Jodie Meeks came off the bench to score 13.
Jennings, who has rarely handled the ball on the fast break, returned to his creative roots, doing the delicate dance between flashy and effective, and keying a 16-4 run after the Pacers pulled within two in the third.
He found Caldwell-Pope for a streaking layup after freezing the defense with a behind-the-back dribble that wowed the crowd, and later hit him for a transition 3-pointer and fed Monroe for a layup.
"That's just us pushing the ball, being able to get in the open floor and just find guys, especially for layups. That was the most important thing," Jennings said. "With any point guard, not looking for my shot but finding guys, making plays."
Jennings and D.J. Augustin combined to play their most efficient game of the season, both scoring 14, as Jennings added 10 assists and Augustin eight.
"They were fabulous, but everybody played well tonight," Van Gundy said. "Our bench was in the game. It was really a team effort, it was good to see."
Of course, it's only one night and Smith's absence is the easy reason why, but it begs the question as to why the strategy wasn't geared toward playing this way 28 games ago, when the season wasn't yet thrown away.