A Good Knight
Powered by their young core of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight – with a huge stabilizing push from Tayshaun Prince – the Pistons squandered a 13-point second-half lead but came back from five points behind late and won 91-90 for their second straight home win.
“It was a character game,” Will Bynum said. “It’s a game of runs. Toronto made a great run and we did a great job of responding back. It was extremely important. Brandon played great down the stretch and Tayshaun made some great shots. It was great to see because the previous games we’ve been struggling with that.”
Monroe had another of the type of game that’s becoming routine for him: a double-double, 19 and 11 this time, plus five assists. Drummond played a career high in minutes, more than 24, and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds to go with 13 points for his first career double-double. Knight played a superb final 5:54 after re-entering the game for Bynum, hitting three critical shots in three tries, including a tying triple with 2:56 to play and the game-winner with 7.8 seconds left, splitting a narrow opening and scoring a tough, driving layup.
The Pistons then survived a Kyle Lowry missed shot, just as they had seconds earlier to give themselves the chance to win on a night Andre Bargnani was sizzling, scoring 34 points and making 13 of 20 shots.
But Prince, the veteran, set up Knight’s heroics with consecutive baskets with 1:03 and 37 seconds remaining on similar right-block, lefty hooks. He finished with 16 points, seven boards and three assists, making 8 of 11 shots.
“We got stops down the stretch,” Prince said. “During timeouts coach drew up some stuff, a couple of plays. We kept our floor space and let the guys attack and made the plays. That kind of gave us some confidence down the stretch to do what we have to do. Brandon did a great job on the last play of being patient. I didn’t have timeouts (with Prince trying to inbound the ball from the side) – the play wasn’t set up for me to give him the ball, it’s just that nobody was open. So I had to get him the ball, he was patient enough to relax and see how much time we had and make a play out of it. Kudos to him.”
Knight finished with 16 points, making 6 of 8 shots, and then he played the physical Lowry tough on the last possession to force a tough miss, Lowry finishing just 6 of 17.
“I’m really happy with the poise our guys showed down the stretch, really executed very, very well,” Frank said. “Tay was very good in executing, going down to him, good poise, good presence as far as delivering the ball to him and giving him space. Getting the key stop – we had to get that stop in order to have a chance. I just liked the way we composed ourselves.”
Frank played Monroe and Drummond together extensively and Drummond had perhaps his best game, with no apparent defensive gaffes and plenty of defensive impact and the obvious wallop that comes with grabbing eight offensive boards.
“Andre,” Frank said, “was huge.”
“Andre was big,” Bynum echoed. “His energy level was high. He’s out there talking defensively. He gave us that presence in the paint and he’s offensive rebounding. He just played great tonight. He’s improving minute by minute, second by second. It’s kind of scary, because he’s nowhere near where he’s going to be in a few years. It’s great to see.”
“I saw a lot from him tonight,” Prince said. “The most important thing is when he made mistakes, missed free throws, he just stayed the course, didn’t put his head down. I think his energy kept the crowd in the game and that’s what we need from him.”
Frank showed his trust in Drummond when he put him out for the critical defensive possession before Knight’s game-winning basket, removing Monroe after Lowry on the previous possession had gotten all the way to the rim for a layup off a pick-and-roll play.
“We said if they’re going to go back to that again, rather have more size and length with Andre so if it winds up being a late switch he’s got to shoot over a little bit taller guy,” Frank said.
“Defensively, we’ve got to have nights like this. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s kind of the recipe: hold the team to a low field-goal percentage, win the rebound battle, win the points in the paint, give ourselves a chance. Last six minutes of the game, go either way.”
After losing double-digit leads and dropping their first three home games of the season, the Pistons have now won two straight at The Palace. A modest streak, perhaps, but one they’ll gladly take on a night their future made their present a happy place.