Back on Track

Pistons turn tables in rout of Charlotte; Monroe 1 point shy of 20-20

TEAM COLORS

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

– When both Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight score efficiently and take care of the basketball, the Pistons are pretty tough to beat. They took turns carrying the offense in the Pistons’ 109-94 win over Charlotte at The Palace on Wednesday in a first half that was decisive. Stuckey scored 11 points in the first quarter, then went to the bench to start the second quarter. Knight, after a scoreless first quarter, pumped in14 second-quarter points as the Pistons outscored Charlotte 34-20 to take a commanding 15-point halftime lead. Stuckey finished with 29 points and Knight with 20 and five assists. Knight didn’t have a turnover; Stuckey finished with three. One night after the Pistons committed 22 turnovers, they cut that down to 14, only nine of them in the first three quarters.

BLUE COLLAR – Greg Monroe keeps racking up double-doubles. He came up just one point shy of getting his 19th of the season before halftime, but took care of that on the first possession of the second half. Monroe finished with 19 points and 20 rebounds and might have recorded his first career 20-20 game if the game had been closer and he’d gotten a few more than the 32 minutes he logged. Tayshaun Prince joined Monroe with a double-double of his own, finishing with 14 and 10.

RED FLAG – It didn’t matter much against the team running away with the NBA’s worst record – Charlotte sunk to 4-29 with the loss – but the Pistons continue to struggle from the 3-point arc. They were a combined 4 of 22 in their last two losses and misfired again against the Bobcats, hitting just 1 of 10. The Pistons rank 26th in the league in attempts from the arc. One possible remedy: getting Charlie Villanueva back into the mix when he’s healthy or coaxing Austin Daye out of his prolonged slump.

On a night Greg Monroe came up a measly point shy of his first career 20 and 20, you could reasonably argue he wasn’t Pistons MVP. Maybe it was Rodney Stuckey, who scored 29 points and whose rim attacks established the game’s theme. Maybe it was Brandon Knight, who scored 20 points on 14 shots and didn’t turn it over in nearly 36 minutes. Or maybe it was Tayshaun Prince, who gave them a double-double of his own with 14 and 10.

When you can have that kind of debate, you’re probably going to have a happy locker room.

The Pistons, a night after a 29-point point loss to Philadelphia, took it out on the NBA’s runaway leader for most lottery combinations, Charlotte, winning 109-94 in a game that really wasn’t that close.

“I’m willing to bet money that we can play another 60 games and we won’t have a performance like (the Philadelphia loss),” said Ben Wallace, whose name was actually the first to trip off the tongue of Lawrence Frank when he lauded the team effort. “We all own it. We all get past it. Tonight we came out and took better care of the ball and gave ourselves a chance. We came back tonight and bounced back.”

Frank said Tuesday’s loss turned at the start of the second quarter, when Philadelphia’s second unit outscored his 11-0 to turn a two-point game into what became a rout. The same thing happened the other way Wednesday, Frank’s bench opening on an 8-0 run as the Pistons took command. It was a 15-point game at halftime and went to 21 early in the third quarter.

“I thought the bench guys changed the game,” Frank said. “I thought (Wallace) set unbelievable screens. The first seven shots taken in the second quarter were either Brandon or Ben Gordon and it was because of really good screening, good movement off the ball, getting stops. They changed the tone of the game and we fed off of them.”

Frank’s statistical pearl of the night: The Pistons took five charges, a season high. All those fancy numbers the Pistons posted, the charges are probably his favorite. And the rebounds. With the starting frontcourt of Monroe, Jason Maxiell and Prince combining for 37, the Pistons hammered Charlotte 55-37.

“We needed to get a good game on our home court, get a good win and try to start some momentum and string some games together,” said Monroe, who had eight of his 20 boards on the offensive end. “We know we didn’t play well (against Philadelphia) at all. We had to come back and put out a better performance than we did.”

All of those offensive rebounds – the Pistons had 18, with Prince grabbing four – came about in large measure because of the chaos Stuckey and Knight caused with their penetration.

“Coach just told us they didn’t really have a shot-blocker back there,” Stuckey said, “so it was our key to get stops and get the ball out on the break and attack the rim.”

“We’re a different team when he’s attacking – that’s point blank,” Monroe said. “When he’s attacking the goal with that intensity and that consistently throughout the game, we’re a different team. That’s something we have to ask him to do every night and just impose his will over the whole game.”

He did it magnificently against Charlotte, hitting 10 of 18 shots but also knocking down 9 of 11 at the foul line. That’s a great night. But on this night, you could argue if it made him Pistons MVP or not.