Pistons Batter Boston

Maxiell’s hustle sparks turnaround as Pistons roll to 20-point win

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – Throw out Friday night’s defensive atrocity, when the Pistons scored 106 points yet lost by four to Orlando, and Lawrence Frank’s team has played two pretty good defensive games in its past three. Of course, it’s consistency Frank is after, so he’ll likely remember the Orlando game a good long while. But the Pistons held Boston to 12 of 38 shooting in the middle two quarters when they outscored the Celtics 48-32 in posting their first home win in four tries, a convincing 103-83 decision. Greg Monroe was superb, especially in the fourth quarter, when he hit 4 of 5 shots, and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead six players in double figures. The Pistons got good production off of their bench, as well, with Rodney Stuckey and Corey Maggette combining for 25 points.

BLUE COLLAR – Jason Maxiell has continued to play well at power forward, making it difficult for Lawrence Frank to find an opening to pair Greg Monroe with Andre Drummond. Maxiell was good again on Sunday, the accuracy of his mid-range jump shot making him an efficient scorer. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds and took two charges, as well. With the Pistons scuffling late in the first quarter, Maxiell’s hustle energized the Pistons on one possession when he twice fought for offensive rebounds and wound up making two free throws after forcing a Boston foul.

RED FLAG – The second quarter was one of the best of the season for the Pistons. They shot 69 percent and held the Celtics to 32 percent. They outrebounded Boston, the league’s worst rebounding team, 14-6. And they outscored them 25-18 to take a five-point halftime lead. The bad news? The Pistons turned the ball over eight times in the quarter. At a time their offense was operating as efficiently as it has this season, they cost themselves eight more chances to score. When they were converting at nearly a 70 percent rate, that could have easily meant 10 more points and a 15-point lead. They were much better in the second half, turning it over just five times.

The Pistons trailed by five on another night their opponent was shooting an absurdly high percentage. It was late in the first quarter, this two nights after an offensively limited Orlando team blitzed the Pistons with 48 points in the game’s final 15 minutes, and Boston was the latest team that was scoring baskets against limited resistance.

Lawrence Frank puts his stock in defense. When his offense is struggling, he looks to his defense to jump start things. On this night, it was their offense that jump started the Pistons defensively. More accurately, it was their offensive rebounding. More precisely, it was Jason Maxiell’s offensive rebounding – his flat-out force of will.

First Corey Maggette missed a 3-pointer. Maxiell chased down the rebound. Then Will Bynum missed a jump shot. This time Rodney Stuckey grabbed the carom, but missed a short follow attempt. Maxiell, again, all elbows and flailing arms, ripped the ball away from Boston’s Chris Wilcox and forced him to foul. What had been a lethargic crowd roared approval as Maxiell went to the free-throw line.

Over the next two quarters, the Pistons suffocated Boston, which made fewer than one-third of its shots (12 of 38) after shooting 62.5 percent in the first quarter, was outrebounded 24-16 and outscored 48-32 as the Pistons won their first home game in four tries, a 103-83 throttling of the Celtics.

“That’s my job,” Maxiell said matter-of-factly. “As a starter, as an older guy on the team, come out and let the tone be set.”

“I thought Max was unbelievable,” Lawrence Frank said. “He really, really was good. Even though he started to get a little bit fatigued in the third, he just kept on going. Max (had) phenomenal energy. There were so many individuals who impacted the game, I hate to single out Max. But he was so noticeable. He was tremendous.”

“Max has been great on the offensive boards this whole season,” said Greg Monroe, who led six Pistons in double figures with 20 points and 13 rebounds, making 8 of 11 shots and helping clinch the win with eight points and four boards in the final seven minutes. “Plays like that, they spark the team and from that point on we kind of controlled the game.”

It was a measure of how stagnant the Pistons made Boston’s offense that the Celtics were left to pursue a gimmick in the fourth quarter. Doc Rivers kept Rajon Rondo in the game despite a 22-point deficit late so he could attempt to extend his streak of 10-plus assist games to 34. He got there with the minimum by picking up four in the last six minutes, but the Celtics managed a meager 12 assists as a team.

“It all stems from (defense),” Frank said. “I thought really good defensive energy bridging those (middle two) quarters. That’s what it’s going to take for us. It’s not about getting the ball or getting your touches; it’s about getting stops. As a result of that, what happens? Six guys in double figures. I think the second unit had 14 assists. We outrebounded them, we shot more free throws, a good assist night. The two games we’ve won, we’ve seen a defensive commitment and that’s what it’s got to be about.”

The Pistons, now 2-9 but 2-1 in their last three, got 15 points, six rebounds, a blocked shot and two charges drawn from Maxiell and 14 points from Kyle Singler. Stuckey had 14 and Maggette 11 off the bench, while Stuckey and Bynum both had five assists off the bench.

In their other three home games, the Pistons held double-digit leads in the second half, but defensive collapses washed away their chances to win. All three teams – Houston, Oklahoma City and Orlando – shot 54 percent or better in the fourth quarters of those games.

“We felt like that’s one game we let slip away,” Monroe said of Friday’s stinging loss. “We didn’t want it to be another game where we went into the fourth quarter with a lead and gave it up. Guys were really focused on finishing the game.”

“That game against Orlando was tough,” Maxiell said. “We know that we’ve got to hold our own court and protect home and that’s what we did tonight.”

It was a win built on their defense – a defense that seemingly became energized by our furious burst of passion from Jason Maxiell at the offensive end.

“We scored 31 points in the fourth quarter against Orlando and lost the game,” Frank said. “We understand that it’s the commitment to doing it and continuing to make, from both an individual and team accountability standpoint, that we’re committing to the process.”