Auburn Hills — Mastering the point guard position is something every lead guard aspires to, and although Brandon Jennings is far from a master, on Wednesday he had the kind of night — and affect — they all dream of.
Jennings' fourth-quarter alley-oop to Andre Drummond gave him the NBA's first 20-point, 20-assist game since 2009, and his dominance led to the Pistons weathering an Orlando Magic storm, with a 128-118 victory at The Palace Wednesday. It was their 12th win in 15.
Jennings began the night with five assists on the first five offensive possessions, and kept his big men fed and satisfied offensively all night, as Andre Drummond scored 15 of his game-high 26 in the second half and Greg Monroe scored 24.
After he got his bigs involved, Jennings began to feel it himself, scoring nine in the first on his way to a 24-point, 21-assist night, as the Pistons built a 21-point lead in the third quarter.
"Once I got in the lane and I knew I could get in the lane all night, I could pick my poison," Jennings said. "Guys are getting easy shots, making easy shots. It's one of those nights."
He wouldn't call it the best game of his career, as the sterling 55-point performance he put up as a rookie still takes that honor.
"Fifty-five in three quarters, that's tough. I don't know what I was on that night," Jennings said. "But 20-20, that's pretty killer. Fifty-five in three (quarters) as a rookie? Nah!"
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy called Jennings' night — the NBA's first 20-20 points-assist night since Steve Nash did it in 2009 — "phenomenal."
"We missed half a dozen layups, he could've had 25 assists tonight," Van Gundy said. "He made plays, made his shots when he got them. It was a great bounce-back game."
The Pistons were having so much fun and executing with so much ease on offense that they forgot to play on the other end —a no-no against a team that if nothing else, relentlessly attacks offensively, getting up shots fast and furious.
If they didn't treat the Magic as a legit threat, a 22-6 run staged between the end of the third quarter and first five minutes of the fourth should've been enough to get their attention.
The Magic play so fast, with seemingly no mind to the score that the Pistons lead appeared to affect their psyche more than it did the Magic.
Missed layups was followed by wayward stares to the officials while the Magic simply kept playing and played hard, taking advantage of every opening the Pistons left them, cutting the Pistons' lead to two.
"We have a lot more experience playing from behind than ahead, and our defense in the second half wasn't good at all," Van Gundy said.
Magic big man Nikola Vucevic kept scoring inside, finishing with 26 points and 15 rebounds, and matchup nightmare Tobias Harris was ready to give the Pistons one that would last through the next few nights, scoring 19 off the bench in his first game back from injury.
But with the shot clock running down and an audible panic seemingly to emerge from the Palace crowd, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped into a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Magic guard Evan Fournier with 7:07 left.
"We did a great job and gathered ourselves, and played very well down the stretch," Van Gundy said. "It's another learning experience. You can let those get away and it goes the other way. To gather ourselves with a double-digit victory, I thought showed a lot for our team."
After completing the four-point play, Jennings resumed his takeover of the stat sheet and the game, hitting two straight jumpers to restore even more order, weathering the Magic threat and sending The Palace fans who braved the day's snowstorm back happy.
Jennings dished sharp passes to Monroe, needling the ball through traffic and Monroe finished easily in the paint, scoring 20 of his 24 in the first half as the Pistons built their massive lead.
"I kept attacking, kept attacking the basket," Jennings said. "Anthony (Tolliver) hit a big 3 in the corner, and then we just ran with it."
Kyle Singler got into the act, hitting four of his five 3-point attempts as all starters scored in double figures.
With Drummond in foul trouble in the first half, he had plenty of time to recharge his batteries and think about the impending damage he would inflict on the Magic bigs, taking fancy passes and alley-oops from Jennings that were soft and right on time.
On a night where Pistons owner Tom Gores publicly declared the release of Josh Smith was about giving other talented players the opportunities to make plays, Jennings was the living, breathing and playmaking manifestation of his words.