Kings of the Road
SACRAMENTO – The Pistons got what they expected from Sacramento, doubly motivated by the sting of blowing a late lead at The Palace to lose last month and by being embarrassed at home 24 hours earlier by a Golden State team gutted by a pregame trade that sent away two key players.
The Kings’ motivation will now be trebled.
The Pistons, indeed, got Sacramento’s best shot – for 17 minutes. With seven minutes to go before halftime, the Kings already had racked up 48 points and led by 16. Barely more than a quarter later, the Pistons had executed a dizzying 31-point turnaround, leading by 15 with 4:15 to go in the third quarter.
Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Tayshaun Prince had huge games, combining for 95 points. Monroe and Brandon Knight both posted double-doubles, Monroe with 32 points and 11 rebounds, Knight with 10 points and 11 assists. The last time the Pistons came from that far back to win came in the 2009-10 season finale when they beat Minnesota 103-98. And the last time they had two players top 30 points came in a loss to Utah on Dec. 19, 2008 when Allen Iverson scored 38 and Rip Hamilton 30.
“Defense – we just played defense,” Stuckey said of the stunning turnaround. “That’s pretty much how we got back in this ballgame. We knew we could score on this team, but defense – we had to get back in transition and stop them from getting easy baskets.”
Prince lit the fuse, scoring nine points in a 25-10 run to end the first half that pulled the Pistons within a point, finishing with 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Monroe pushed them past the Kings with a scoring burst early in the third quarter on his way to 32 points and 11 rebounds in thoroughly outplaying DeMarcus Cousins. And then Stuckey brought down the hammer, hitting four triples – including three on consecutive possessions – as the Pistons blew it open.
Stuckey finished with 35 points, six assists and five rebounds and backcourt partner Brandon Knight had 10 points and 11 assists, a career high, while not committing a turnover.
“We started to play a little bit better,” Lawrence Frank said as the Pistons won their first Western Conference road game since November 2010, also at Sacramento. “It was a defensive struggle for us. But the middle of the second quarter, we started to play with more energy. We were able to build off that in the third quarter and had a tremendous third quarter, just great offensive energy and rhythm. When you have three guys with almost 30 or more, it was the ball movement.”
“When you’re talking about defense, it’s just about will,” Monroe said. “We weren’t communicating that well in the beginning – everybody was missing a few assignments. We had to calm down and get back to our principles and that’s what we did.”
The Pistons gave up an alarming number of uncontested shots, layups and transition baskets in the opening quarter-plus until suddenly tightening the screws midway through the second quarter. The Kings shot 59 percent in the first quarter and tacked on 16 points in the first five minutes of the second quarter before the Pistons started slashing into the lead.
“The problem was the way they were scoring – it was just too easy,” Frank said. “But our guys weathered the storm.”