Turning the Tide
The Pistons went into Friday’s game with Charlotte 29th in the NBA in scoring. Charlotte entered 30th in points allowed. The resistible force trumped the movable object. The Pistons averaged 83.7 points a game through their first 11. They nearly matched that in three quarters against the Bobcats and led by double digits for much of the game.
After falling behind big in most recent games, the Pistons jumped on Charlotte early – but the seeds for the win were really planted in snow-covered Milwaukee 24 hours earlier.
Lawrence Frank left the stormy Midwest the night before optimistic an offensive breakthrough had been achieved but concerned about defensive breakdowns. Against a team struggling at least as badly as the Pistons – Charlotte came in on a five-game losing streak and lost by 30 at Atlanta on Thursday – Frank’s team outplayed their opponent at both ends in a convincing win they hope is the springboard for better days.
“We had some glimpses against Milwaukee,” said Jonas Jerebko, who matched a career high with 22 points and added nine rebounds. “Today we had a complete game instead of just half a game.”
The Pistons got contributions across the board, but the central figures were Jerebko, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight – all drafted in the last three years by Joe Dumars. Jerebko, who’d scored 12 points in his last three games combined, matched that figure in Friday’s first quarter.
“Jonas was exceptional tonight,” Frank said. “He just had great purpose throughout the game, great energy, all over the ball, making multiple-effort plays. We talked after the (Milwaukee) game – how are we going to build on the spirit our guys showed? We took a step tonight.”
“(The Milwaukee performance) helped a lot just because we made it a tough game,” Knight said after recording his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists and no turnovers. “We didn’t win and we’re not happy about losing, but the effort was there, the intensity was there, and we showed a lot of things we hadn’t in previous losses. So it was really something to look forward to tonight, just seeing how we would come out.”
It was Knight who snuffed out Charlotte’s last best hope. Bobcats coach Paul Silas, groping for answers, threw a zone defense at the Pistons late in the third quarter. It helped the Bobcats cut a 21-point deficit to 13 when the Pistons scored only once on their first seven fourth-quarter possessions, but then three consecutive triples, the first two by Knight, sucked the drama from the game and what little energy remained in Time Warner Cable Arena.
“My teammates attacked the gaps of the zone, created opportunities for me and I was able to knock them down,” said Knight, beginning to get a better gauge of when to attack the basket and when to probe for shots on the perimeter. “Damien Wilkins, Rodney Stuckey – if not for them creating opportunities for me, those shots wouldn’t have gone in or I wouldn’t have been able to take them.”
Monroe, a night after his 32-point, 16-rebound performance, came back with 19 points, nine boards and five assists.
“Everyone who played contributed and impacted the game,” Frank said. “That’s what we need.”