Pistons Crush Charlotte
CHARLOTTE – The Pistons trekked through the Southeast Division on a four-game road trip that lets them know where they stand: smack in the middle of the league’s best teams and its worst.
After losing narrowly to Atlanta and being humbled at Miami and Orlando, the Pistons wrapped up their four-game road trip by crushing the woebegone Charlotte Hornets 109-85 Thursday night. The losses to the Heat and Magic left Lawrence Frank in a foul mood, and he challenged the team in Orlando to decide what it wanted to be – the group that started the season on the same lowly pace as Charlotte, going 4-20, or the one that regrouped to go 17-16 afterward.
“These last two or three games, we know we could have played better,” said Greg Monroe, who dropped 25 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on Charlotte in three quarters and then took the rest of the night off. “We wanted to make sure we came out and gave a good effort and everybody did a good job of that tonight.”
So 33 days since they stuffed a road map into Roundball One’s groaning cargo holds and hit the road, the Pistons return to The Palace a little more experienced and a lot more battered but refreshed for their finishing kick by the carrot the NBA schedule maker provided to wrap up their road odyssey, the Bobcats, who earlier this week lost on their home court to Washington by 29. Over those 33 days, the Pistons have taken their three longest road trips of the season and played just four times at home.
As much as the Pistons were embarrassed by their non-competitiveness in the past two games, losing to Charlotte – which lost by 29 to Washington in its most recent home game – would have been a few degrees of humiliation worse.
“Lawrence is never happy, man,” Will Bynum grinned. “Lawrence is going to find something from this game to be mad about to get us going for the next game. He told us before the game (Charlotte) had us circled on their calendar to get this win and it motivated us to play and perform better.”
Bynum was a part of the game’s key spurt, a 15-1 run midway through the second quarter that gave the Pistons an 18-point lead. Frank credited him with helping change the tone of the game by intentionally trying to pick up the pace with his defensive pressure.
“Put some pressure on those guys and force them deep into the shot clock,” Bynum said. “Try to contest shots and get out and run. That’s been our focal point, using our defense to get out in transition and get some easy baskets.”
It was down to 12 at halftime, but a nearly flawless third quarter in which they scored 40 points, led by Brandon Knight’s 15, blew it open. Knight finished with 21 points and seven assists, but even before his third-quarter outburst Frank was delighted with his rookie point guard.
“I thought Brandon played a super floor game,” he said. “He was trying to get others going first. That’s part of the maturation. When you’re looking out and making sure ‘I’m going to get this guy going, this guy going, this guy going,’ everybody is in a rhythm and as the point guard, the primary ballhandler, you can start searching your shot out after you’ve gotten those other guys in a rhythm, as opposed to vice versa.”
The Bobcats, losers of 14 straight and 24 of 27, are now 7-50. The Pistons finished a perfect 4-0 against them, doing their part to give Michael Jordan’s team the 25 percent odds of winning the lottery that go to the NBA’s worst team.
While the Pistons acknowledge the work they have ahead of them to pull even with the likes of Miami and Orlando, the shining lights of their future – the ones Charlotte can’t find with a magnifying glass – burned bright in Knight and Monroe.
“Greg’s effort on both ends was at a high level,” Frank said. “I don’t ever care about individual statistics. We’ve got to get wins. And in order to get wins, we’ve got to outwork the opponent on both ends. Greg really set a great tone of doing it.”
As is to be expected in a game where the Pistons led by 36 midway through the fourth quarter, the numbers were dazzling. They shot 52 percent, outrebounded Charlotte 43-30, outscored the Bobcats 56-32 in the paint and 21-10 in transition. Jason Maxiell made all eight of his shots, getting the Pistons off to a quick lead that they would never lose.
“It was a fun game to coach, a fun game to watch,” Frank said. “Our guys played very hard. They really committed on the defensive end and did a great job sharing the basketball.”
So for one night, proving Will Bynum wrong on a night the Pistons didn’t make many wrong calls, Lawrence Frank was, indeed, a happy man.