What a Win

Daye, Monroe play huge roles in critical Pistons OT win

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– At halftime, Austin Daye had scored two points in six minutes. By night’s end, he might have saved the Pistons’ season. In as close as it gets to a must-win before the midway point of the season, Daye’s spinning, game-tying triple with three seconds left forced overtime, then he scored the first five points in OT en route to 15 points, six boards and three assists in a tidy 25-minute performance. The Pistons needed this one: Philadelphia would have left town four games ahead of them in the loss column with a win; instead, the Pistons pulled themselves within two of the No. 8 playoff spot.

BLUE COLLAR – Daye wasn’t the only Pistons tenderfoot who had a big second half and overtime. Greg Monroe had four points and one rebound at halftime, then finished with a career-high 16 points to go with 13 rebounds – that’s his second straight double-double – plus three steals and three assists. Monroe’s great feed to Daye for a dunk gave the Pistons a five-point lead early in overtime, then he forced Philadelphia to foul him twice and made three of four free throws to bump the lead to eight.

RED FLAG – Two days after John Kuester mused that the Pistons’ defensive energy seemed to wax and wane based on whether they were making their shots, they came out ablaze, making 7 of 8 to start the game. Against a team playing the second of a back to back, that could have been enough to seize control of the game in the opening minutes. But there proved no correlation between their shotmaking and their as Philly scored 15 points in the first four minutes and 34 in the first quarter. The same thing happened to start the fourth quarter, when the Pistons tied the game on a Rodney Stuckey triple on the first possession but quickly fell six points behind as they allowed Philly to make 6 of 7, mostly on open mid-range jump shots.

On a night the Pistons got a healthy glimpse of their future, they also helped preserve their present.

And if this season goes anywhere, then Austin Daye’s turnaround corner triple in the final five seconds to force an overtime that looked unreachable to the Pistons surely will be remembered as one of the year’s signature plays.

After his cold-blooded tying triple, Daye scored the first five points of overtime and then rookie Greg Monroe picked up the baton, scoring the next three on a night he recorded his second career double-double – and his second straight double-double – and went for a career-high 16 points to go with 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“(The future) really looks good to me, but hopefully it looks good to Joe D,” Daye said after he contributed 15 points and six boards in 25 minutes off the bench. “Joe’s the one who drafted us last year and this year and I bet he’s pleased seeing us out there on the floor at the end of games, making plays.”

The Pistons have much work to do before they can talk credibly about a playoff push, but had they lost this one the playoffs might have been even more unreachable than overtime appeared to be for them.

Philadelphia is one of the teams ahead of them that will need to be overhauled and the 76ers would have been four games up in the loss column had they held on to their 3-point lead with 6.2 seconds left. That’s when Lou Williams, an 82 percent foul shooter, stepped to the free-throw line and opened the door for the Pistons by missing both.

Kuester called a play for the tie that originally featured Charlie Villanueva popping to the corner as one of three options – Tayshaun Prince was one, and Rodney Stuckey, after setting a screen for Villanueva, was to be the third. But assistant coach Darrell Walker, mindful of the fact that Villanueva had sat almost the entire second half after picking up his fourth foul with 10 minutes left in the third quarter and then shot an air ball with 12 seconds left from the 3-point arc, suggested putting Daye at Villanueva’s spot.

Kuester did, Stuckey set a solid screen and Daye took the ball in the corner opposite Philly’s bench with his back to the basket, wheeled around and launched a shot that cut cleanly through the net.

“Stuck set a great screen,” Daye said, “I got wide open and as soon as I let it go, I knew it was going in.”

But before he could make that shot, he had to be in the game to take it, and that meant as much to Daye as anything.

“It was important to me,” he said. “It meant a lot that coach had the confidence to leave me out there.”

Daye opened overtime with another triple, giving the Pistons the lead for good, and then Monroe and Daye hooked up for a Daye dunk that stretched the lead to five. Monroe hit three of four free throws to bump the lead to eight, and though the 76ers would cut it to a point on a Jodie Meeks triple with 7.5 seconds left, the Pistons held on for a 112-109 win that snapped their three-game losing streak and leaves them at 12-24.

Monroe, coming off a 14-point, 11-rebound game against the Lakers, came on when Villanueva picked up his fourth foul, gave the Pistons nine points and 10 rebounds in a stretch of 16 uninterrupted minutes before asking to be taken out with six minutes left in the game. But when it went to OT, Kuester rushed him right back into the game.

“It means a lot – it showed the coach trusts me, has faith in me,” he said. “I just try to make sure I’m out there and make the right plays and produce.”

“He keeps getting better and better,” Kuester said, “and one he gets through the league one time, he’ll have a great feeling. He’s earned the time that he’s getting.”

The feed that produced Daye’s dunk in overtime came off a play that had broken down and revealed Monroe’s great vision.

“He’s got a great feel for the game,” Daye said. “The more and more he plays, the better he’s getting. He knows how to use his body in the paint now and he’s making plays that are right him and not making any mistakes. (The play had) broken down. I can tell when he’s going to pass it. He has great vision. I made a move and he saw me out of the corner of his eye and I knew he was passing, so I just got ready for the dunk. It was a great pass.”

Of course, it never would have happened without the two missed free throws from an 82 percent free-throw shooter, but the Pistons feel they’ve endured enough bad breaks this year – they had this one coming.

“It’s about time we got a little luck,” Kuester said. “We needed that. The basketball gods were with us on that one.”