Pistons Snap Skid

Smith fills up stat sheet as Pistons end 4-game streak with win over Kings


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

WHITE HOT – Josh Smith’s road trip didn’t start off very well, but he made up for it with a superb all-around game to enable the Pistons to snap a 21-game losing streak in Western Conference road games and, more critically, a four-game losing streak this season. Smith finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and four blocks as the Pistons beat Sacramento 97-90. Andre Drummond put up big numbers, too, with 15 points and 18 rebounds. The Pistons got off to a strong start but didn’t seize control until midway through the third quarter, which they closed on a 16-4 run to take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.

BLUE COLLAR – Without Chauncey Billups (left knee tendinitis), Maurice Cheeks elevated rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the starting lineup in part to keep Rodney Stuckey in his role off the bench. Stuckey led a strong bench effort for the Pistons, finishing with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. He hit a jump shot and fed Andre Drummond for a dunk as the Pistons quickly stretched their 10-point lead after three quarters to 14, then later fed Drummond for another dunk to keep Sacramento at arm’s length. Kyle Singler also played well off Detroit’s bench with 11 points, including a big layup in the fourth quarter when a Sacramento zone momentarily stalled the Pistons offensively.

RED FLAG – When the Pistons took care of the ball and had good possessions with a balance floor that resulted in good shots, Sacramento struggled to score. Where the Kings were able to hurt the Pistons was in transition. It didn’t always show up as fast-break points, but Sacramento was able to do damage early in the shot clock when the Pistons were scrambling to get back to their man and avoid mismatches. They cut way down on those quick shots in the second half, though, and held the Kings to 39 points.

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On a night Sacramento set a contrived record for the world’s loudest indoor arena, it was the Pistons who spoke loudest.

Bearing the burden of not only a four-game losing streak against the cream of the NBA but a 21-game skid in road games against Western Conference opponents, the Pistons started strong and finished stronger in a 97-90 win over Sacramento. The Kings were coming off a 21-point crushing of Brooklyn two nights earlier and looking to give a jacked-up home crowd something to really holler about in addition to their 126-decibel outburst that earned an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.

“They’re out there breaking records for the loudest crowd and that type of environment, it’s tough to play in – real tough to play in,” said Andre Drummond, who tied a career high with 18 rebounds and added 14 points. “We kept our composure and we just did what we needed to do and came out with a win.”

As good as Drummond was, Josh Smith’s name goes on the Pistons’ marquee for this one. After two subpar games to start their four-game road trip, Smith stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and four blocked shots.

It was Smith who established the tone for the game, too. They trailed 11-2 out of the gate against both Portland and Golden State, but led 10-2 over Sacramento with Smith fueling a transition game that produced 13 first-quarter points off turnovers. He finished the first quarter with five assists and three steals.

“He was spectacular tonight,” said Maurice Cheeks, who shorted his rotation to seven in the second half and played Smith the distance and 44 minutes overall. “In order for us to be really good, this is the way Josh has to play and he’s capable of doing this. He was really, really good tonight.

“He got us going, but I thought more important he got us going defensively. The way he closed off the paint, got his hands on a lot of balls, come up with a couple of steals and made a lot of nice passes to guys running down the floor. I thought he was the one that ignited us to get that lead in the early going.”

"I think it started with the defense with everybody. We just plugged in. We made some key stops."

- Josh Smith on the game
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Yet for all of Smith’s impact, and even with the good start, it wasn’t going to be that easy for the Pistons. The Kings have made national TV appearances about as often as the Pistons the past few seasons, so with an ESPN national audience and the well-publicized attempt to set the noise record, the Pistons knew Sacramento had a charge coming. The Kings took a lead on consecutive 3-point shots from Greivis Vasquez to go ahead 64-62 midway through the third quarter, but the Pistons closed the quarter with a 16-4 run and led by 10 headed to the fourth.

Rodney Stuckey made a handful of big plays early in the quarter, then a Sacramento zone defense momentarily threw the Pistons out of rhythm. But Smith hit a big triple, Drummond kept grabbing rebounds and Brandon Jennings (11 points, nine assists and just one turnover) steadied the offense to prevent the Kings from ever getting close enough to make the crowd believe a win was coming.

“When you’re on the road, teams are going to make pushes,” Smith said. “We didn’t get rattled. We came down and executed our plays and we did that pretty much all night. That’s what we have to keep doing from here on out.”

Cheeks kept exhorting his players from the sideline, too, when things started to drift or a physical game caused frustrations to bubble to the surface.

“I don’t think we really focused on (the hoopla surrounding the game),” he said. “You could sense the guys were pretty focused. We didn’t really talk about ESPN and this thing going on. We kind of went out and played. Even at shootaround, we were really focused today.”

With Chauncey Billups sitting the game out with tendinitis in his left knee, rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew his first career start and gave the Pistons good minutes, especially in the first half when he contributed all seven of his points. But Cheeks rode Stuckey hard in the second half, playing him the last 17 minutes. He finished with 16 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and just one turnover. The Pistons gutted the Kings in points off turnovers, 22-8.

But it was Smith’s night, from the opening minutes on, the type of eye-popping effort a team usually requires when bearing the weight of the onerous streaks the Pistons carried with them into Sleep Train Arena.

“Josh did what he normally does,” Drummond said. “He did what he does best – distributed the ball and take shots when needed and he took great shots tonight.”