Road Warriors

Dominant 3rd quarter carries Pistons to blowout road win over Bucks

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – The Pistons started strong, got blitzed with a 16-1 Milwaukee run in the second quarter to fall eight points behind at halftime and then played their best road quarter of the season – to score their best road win of the season – in a 103-87 trouncing of Milwaukee. The Pistons outscored Milwaukee 33-11 in the third quarter, racking up 12 assists on 13 baskets in 19 attempts. Brandon Knight had 10 points and five assists in the quarter and Greg Monroe had 12 points and four rebounds. Knight finished with 20 points and five assists and Monroe with 26 points and 11 boards.

BLUE COLLAR – Kyle Singler’s numbers aren’t going to jump out of a box score that accurately displays big nights for Monroe and Knight, but he was active at both ends and did a terrific job tying up Milwaukee’s explosive Monta Ellis, who wound up with 13 points – 17 fewer than he scored when the Pistons beat Milwaukee at The Palace two weeks ago. Singler finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Singler was responsible for helping the Pistons get off to a solid start, knocking down an open 3-pointer and hustling to score in transition on a put-back, while also keeping Ellis under wraps early. Jason Maxiell also was solid as a rock with 10 points and seven boards in 27 minutes.

RED FLAG – The second unit that had been so very good for the Pistons for the past few weeks sputtered in the second quarter, seeing a 25-20 lead after one quarter quickly evaporate. All five players were out of the game before the five-minute mark, by which time the Bucks had outscored them 17-6 to take a six-point lead. Beno Udrih especially hurt the Pistons, scoring 13 points on 6 of 6 shooting in the quarter. The bench bounced back in the fourth quarter and Andre Drummond was particularly good with eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in just 17 minutes.

MILWAUKEE – The Pistons first unit went all second unit on Milwaukee. Putting together the type of explosive, dominant quarter their bench had lately made a pattern, Detroit’s starters busted Milwaukee with a 23-5 run to start the second half Friday night on their way to a 103-87 road win.

Coming off the rare four-day break, the Pistons were a little wary of how they’d start the game. But they started just fine, holding a five-point lead over Milwaukee after one quarter, turning the game over to the bench that’s been so good for them. But the Bucks went on a 16-1 run that forced Lawrence Frank to go back to his starters five minutes before halftime.

They stabilized the game at that point, cutting an 11-point deficit to eight by the break, then suffocated Milwaukee with their most dominant road quarter of the season, outscoring the Bucks 33-11.

“We came out with great energy tonight,” said Greg Monroe, who scored 12 of his game-high 26 points (plus 11 rebounds) in the decisive quarter. “It was definitely one of our best quarters of the season, by far, and we have to find ways to duplicate that quarter.”

The Pistons shot 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) in the quarter while holding Milwaukee – 18-16 entering the game and on a two-game win streak since replacing Scott Skiles with assistant Jim Boylan – to just 5 of 21 (23.8 percent). They assisted on 12 of their 13 baskets and came up with 11 consecutive defensive stops during a 15-0 run that took them from five points behind to 10 in front.

“The third quarter was tremendous,” Lawrence Frank said. “The starters played pretty well in the first quarter, as well, but the game kind of got away from us in that second quarter. To hold them to 11 points – we were able to score off of our defense. Everybody contributed. Greg and Brandon (Knight) were exceptional. Our movement, spacing, the stops, limiting them to one shot – a tremendous third quarter.”

Knight scored 10 of his 20 points and dished out all of his five assists – he didn’t commit a turnover all night – in the third quarter, but his defense from start to finish played at least as critical a role. Bucks guard Brandon Jennings was fresh off of a 35-point masterpiece in Milwaukee’s win over Chicago, but he was limited to 15 points and one assist on 5 of 13 shooting. Knight also had four rebounds and two steals.

“That’s first and foremost,” Frank said of Knight’s shackling of Jennings. “Brandon Jennings is the key cog to that team and I thought Brandon was really, really good. He was so engaged defensively. It’s amazing, when you do that, how offensively you start making plays. It’s how he got the 20. They were a rhythm 20. It was a real healthy way to get your points.”

“He made a lot of big shots in the third quarter,” Monroe said. “He did a good job of distributing the ball and taking shots he can make. It’s one of those nights where everything was clicking for all of us, but defensively is where we took control of the game and how we got the win.”

Big win, too. The Pistons are now 7-2 in their last nine games with the only two losses coming in overtime. They’re 14-23 now after opening the season 0-8. In the forgiving Eastern Conference, they’re still within striking distance of a playoff berth. But they can’t keep treading water forever. Beating teams ahead of them on the road is a sure way to improve their stance.

“It shows we can compete with anyone,” said Charlie Villanueva, who hit a killer triple late in the third quarter as the Pistons stretched their lead to 14. “We’ve been not so good on the road. Hopefully, we can build on this and move forward.”

“This is definitely a big win,” Monroe said. “They were pretty hot coming into this game. They’re one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s a division game, which always means something, so we know we have an opportunity. We’re just trying to take it one night at a time and tonight we took care of business.”