3 Straight

Frontcourt dominates as Pistons win 3rd straight in Jennings’ homecoming


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

WHITE HOT – A night after beating the 14-3 defending NBA champions Miami on the road, the Pistons struggled for a half against the 3-14 Milwaukee Bucks. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Mo Cheeks called a timeout with the Pistons trailing 54-48. They promptly went on a 16-0 run and never looked back, beating Milwaukee 105-97. Detroit’s starting frontcourt of Andre Drummond (24 points, 19 rebounds ), Greg Monroe (18 points, 17 rebounds ) and Josh Smith (17 points, six rebounds) dominated, especially in the decisive third quarter when they combined for 27 points and 13 rebounds. The Pistons have now won three straight overall and their last three road games, the first three-game road winning streak since Nov. 11-14, 2008 when they won at Sacramento, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.

BLUE COLLAR – Brandon Jennings returned to Milwaukee and didn’t have a dazzling game, making only one first-half basket, but he finished with 17 points and 11 assists and played 42 minutes after going 44 hard minutes the previous night in the win at Miami. Jennings applied constant backcourt pressure, coming up with three steals and forcing other turnovers that won’t go under his name. Kyle Singler was outstanding for a second straight game, scoring 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting and contributing two big baskets in the fourth quarter – a 3-pointer and a driving layup that resulted in a three-point play.

RED FLAG – Rodney Stuckey, the lynchpin of Detroit’s bench all season, sat out almost all of the fourth quarter after leaving the game early in the period after he twice dived for loose balls. Stuckey, who had scored 16 or more points in 11 consecutive games, didn’t have his offense going against Milwaukee – he made just one of eight shots and finished with four points – but he didn’t let down in other areas and one of his dives created a Bucks turnover and an easy two points for the Pistons. He returned for the final 1:13, so it wouldn’t appear to be a long-term injury, but could be something that stiffens on him overnight. The Pistons don’t play again, though, until Saturday at Chicago.

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MILWAUKEE – Brandon Jennings ruffled some feathers in Milwaukee when he said he’d never had the chance to play with big men as talented as Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

They can dock him for political incorrectness, but not for honesty.

Jennings posted a double-double in his return to the place he spent his first four NBA seasons, where they marked the occasion by booing him lustily whenever he touched the ball. But the real story was the domination of the frontcourt Jennings extolled upon coming to the Pistons in late July.

Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith combined for 59 points and 42 rebounds and the Pistons beat Milwaukee 105-98 for their third straight win, completing a two-game road trip that also included a win at Miami 24 hours earlier and a diverted flight that required a bus ride to foggy Milwaukee from Chicago, arriving at 4 a.m. Central time Wednesday morning.

“Drummond played big, Greg Monroe played big,” Jennings said. “I was just telling Greg, there was one point in the game where I was just looking at all three of ’em crashing the boards and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ Like, that’s a scary sight down there. Those guys played big tonight. They came in here and did a great job. They took a lot of heat off me.”

'Those guys played big tonight. They came in here and did a great job. They took a lot of heat off me.”

- Brandon Jennings on the Pistons frontcourt
Full game quotes

They were never bigger together, over their first 19 games, than in the third quarter. The Bucks threw a zone defense at the Pistons that sparked a 31-19 Milwaukee second-quarter edge and a 50-45 halftime lead. Less than two minutes into the second half, Mo Cheeks – never one to be accused of having a quick trigger with timeouts – brought the Pistons to the sidelines after watching in horror as John Henson scored on a breakaway dunk.

The Pistons promptly went on a 16-0 run, Monroe and Smith combining for 13 of the points and a Jennings triple accounting for the other three. For the third quarter, in which the Pistons outscored Milwaukee 35-17, the big three combined for 27 points and 13 rebounds.

“I didn’t curse or anything like that,” Cheeks said afterward. “I just didn’t like, the first minute, for them to get a layup. That’s something we talked about coming out in the third quarter is getting back in transition, eliminate the easy baskets, and the first minute or so they got an easy basket. Right after that, we went on a little run.”

“He was like, ‘That stuff shouldn’t happen. We should foul him. Teams should fear us because we’ve got three shot-blockers on our team,’ ” Drummond said. “We kind of let them get a few easy buckets and let them get started up.”

Drummond logged another dominant night with 24 points and 19 rebounds, becoming the first Piston with three straight 18-plus rebound games since Ben Wallace did it nine straight times a decade ago. Monroe finished with 18 and 17 (12 and 12 after halftime) as Drummond and Monroe became the first Pistons with 17-plus rebound games since two games named Laimbeer and Rodman did it in 1990. And Smith added 17 and six, all but four of his points and all of his rebounds coming after halftime.

“Josh, Andre and Monroe were physical inside and physical rebounding the ball,” Cheeks said. “That was the big key. We were really going to the glass, rebounding the ball, and when they do that we can get out and run, we can get a lot of early post-ups, and when those three are playing like that inside, we’re tough to beat.”

Drummond senses the Pistons are figuring it out now, nearly a quarter of the way into the season.

“We’re really starting to gel and starting to find ourselves, finding an identity,” he said. “The first half was tough for us. We let fatigue get to us a little bit. We had a long night but we came in the locker room and said, ‘We can’t let that be an excuse for us.’ We came out the next half and played like we’re supposed to play. We clicked on all cylinders. We knew our jump shots weren’t really going to fall because our legs were tired, so we drove to the hoop and get the foul calls.”

The win brings the Pistons to within a game of .500 at 9-10. In addition to it being their third straight win, it was also their third straight road win, the first time that’s happened since November 2008, another sign of the Pistons’ developing chemistry, and perhaps a little maturity for the way they managed to put the euphoria of winning at Miami behind them.

“It says we’re getting a little in sync,” Cheeks said. “We’ve still got a long way to go. If we just keep defending the way we’ve been defending, keep rebounding the ball and sharing the ball offensively, I think that’s when we’re at our best. Just the commitment to play together and keep trying to win games.”

“This was a statement game for (Jennings) and for us,” Drummond said. “We came off the win we had last night. Most teams would be pretty excited about that kind of win. We kind of buckled down in the second half and knew what we needed to do.”