Another Palace Win

Pistons swat away Cleveland’s chances, extend Palace streak to 5

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – Down a starting backcourt, Cleveland didn’t have the firepower to hang with the Pistons in an 89-79 win that ran Detroit’s winning streak at The Palace to five games Monday night. The Pistons asserted themselves early, shooting 62 percent in the first quarter while holding Cleveland – missing Kyrie Irving and rookie Dion Waiters, the team’s top scoring threats – to 25 percent and grabbing a 13-point lead. They pushed it to 22 before halftime, though the Cavs made things interesting by slicing their deficit to 10 late in the third quarter and to six with two minutes left. Brandon Knight scored 17 and Tayshaun Prince and Kyle Singler 15 apiece for the Pistons.

BLUE COLLAR – Brandon Knight suffered a left thigh contusion in Saturday’s loss at Dallas that made even walking painful for him on Sunday. He was a game-time decision, but started and played 33 minutes, finishing with five rebounds and five assists in addition to his 17 points in the win over Cleveland. Knight was especially effective penetrating the middle of Cleveland’s defense, denting it several times for layups or to create open shots for teammates.

RED FLAG – The Pistons have soared in NBA defensive rankings over the past few weeks, rising to No. 7 in field-goal percentage defense at .434. There is one critical element to their play at the defensive end that still requires cleaning up, though – finishing possessions with rebounds. Cleveland came into the game as the league’s No. 3 offensive rebounding team and that was the biggest point of emphasis for the Pistons, especially mitigating the damage of Cavs center Anderson Varejao, who averaged six offensive rebounds a game. The Cavs grabbed three offensive rebounds on their first possession of the game and eight in the first quarter. They finished with 20, nine from Varejao.

The Pistons don’t yet have all the tools in place to win games in every conceivable manner. But they have at least one more than they’ve possessed since Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace were inflicting punishment on shooters brazen enough to challenge them at the rim.

The Pistons blocked 13 Cleveland shots in Monday’s 89-79 win, courtesy of six different players, and that was as critical as any other element of their defense in limiting the shorthanded Cavaliers to 34 percent shooting.

“It started with Jason Maxiell,” said Andre Drummond, who picked up the baton nicely, adding three blocks of his own to the five Maxiell contributed. “He got the whole flow of the game going with some of the blocked shots he had and some of the strong finishes he had around the rim. Just watching him got me going, too.”

The Pistons were as efficient on offense as they were resolute on defense in the first half, when they took a 22-point lead, but when their offense went sideways in a second half that saw them shoot a dreary 32 percent, their defense bailed them out.

The block party was a good news-bad news story to Lawrence Frank, who counted 38 times in the second half alone in which Cleveland penetrated the paint. He joked that the blocked shots – the most the Pistons have recorded in a game since they also had 13 against Philadelphia on April 15, 2007 – were a byproduct of all the free passes Pistons perimeter defenders gave to Cavaliers.

“It’s like a chocoholic,” he said. “If you keep on going back, eventually you just become a glutton for eating too much chocolate. We don’t want to be relying on that. We have to be more solid in terms of guarding the basketball.”

Brandon Knight scored 17 to lead the Pistons, playing despite a deep thigh bruise suffered in Dallas on Saturday, but it was the defense his frontcourt provided that had Knight most enthused.

“It definitely means a lot to know that you can pressure the ball,” he said. “You don’t want to have to rely on that, but just in case you do get beat, having bigs who have the ability to step up and have different consequences – whether it’s taking charges or blocking shots – it definitely gives you a lot more confidence to pressure the basketball and get into guys.”

Cleveland played without not only second-year point guard Kyrie Irving but also rookie backcourt mate Dion Waiters, who twisted his ankle in Saturday’s game. That left the Cavs without anyone resembling a go-to scorer and rested the bulk of their offense in their ability to gather up as many offensive rebounds as possible. It’s a task to which Cleveland is well suited – No. 3 in the league, primarily owing to Anderson Varejao’s six per game. He did 50 percent better than that, grabbing nine of Cleveland’s 20 offensive boards.

The Pistons held their own, though, with Greg Monroe picking up 14 and Drummond spearing 12 in less than 20 minutes off the bench. His impact on the game was at least as significant as his stat line, which included seven points to go with the three blocks and dozen rebounds.

“He’s just playing with energy,” Knight said. “He comes in the game and blocks shots, fights for rebounds, and he just provides a different type of energy we need with the second unit. When the first unit guys see that, they want to come in and provide that same type of energy. He does a great job of doing that.”

The Pistons get two more chances to extend their home winning streak this week before hitting the road again for a return engagement with the Cavs on Saturday night. They host Golden State on Wednesday, Chicago on Friday.

“Letting teams know that it’s going to be tough to get a win at The Palace – that’s the type of reputation we want to have,” Knight said. “But we want also to take that same mentality on the road as far as playing defense and making it tough for teams when they play against us.”