Pistons spot Boston 21-point lead, come back to win behind Brandon Jennings
So when the Pistons recounted the crimes their defense committed in the first half at Boston – and especially the first quarter, when they allowed the Celtics 42 points – there were contrasting recollections.
“We came in the locker room and there wasn’t a lot of yelling, wasn’t a lot of cursing,” Mo Cheeks said after the Pistons came back from 21 down to win 107-106 at Boston, their sixth win in the last seven road games. “We just needed to pick our energy up, play a little harder and get out defense in check and that’s what we did.”
And with an opposing view, we present Brandon Jennings: “Mo went off on us and it kind of woke us up. That third quarter was amazing for us. He was a coach. If you’re down 20-something points, any coach would go off or be mad, but it was a good thing. It woke us up.”
Let’s recount the last four days for the Pistons: They lose a heartbreaker at home on Sunday, seeing a 13-point fourth quarter lead dissipate in an overtime defeat against the hottest team in the West, Portland; the next day, against a rested Indiana team – unbeaten at home and, at 20-3, owners of the NBA’s best record – they rebounded to score an eyebrow-raising win; and then, the capper, a comeback from 21 down to beat a surging Boston team that leads the Atlantic Division.
“That was a good trip,” Cheeks said as he boarded the team bus for the ride home.
Cheeks, asked about the importance of winning to sustain the momentum gathered by winning at Indiana, instead rewound the clock to the Portland game.
“I think losing that tough game to Portland was as big as winning the game (as Indiana) because we realized we had to come together and stay together and make plays down the stretch,” Cheeks said. “Tonight as another example of making plays down the stretch of the game. We had to make plays.”
"It’s not all about just making shots all the time; just making plays or trying to get a big defensive stop."- Brandon Jennings on the end of the game
Full game quotes
“He made plays,” said Cheeks, who had a heart to heart with his point guard before the Indiana game about exactly that. “In the fourth quarter, when you have a guy that has the ability to make plays and the ability to make plays for (others) … we had Chauncey (Billups) on the floor, as well. They couldn’t help as much when you have another shooter like that, so he had more one-on-one space, although Avery Bradley kept him in front of him pretty good, but he still made plays. If it wasn’t for him, he made it for other players.”
“Huge,” said Kyle Singler of Jennings’ contributions, especially the gutsy 3-pointer to take the lead. “We either want him to have the ball, Josh (Smith), Greg (Monroe), (Rodney) Stuckey when he’s healthy. We knew he was going to take the shot. It was just a big-time play.”
Singler made one of those plays, forcing a Boston foul on an inbounds play with two seconds left in the third quarter that put Singler at the line for two easy points to pull then within one headed to the fourth. It took a series of those little plays to chip away at the 21-point lead and give the Pistons the chance to win a game that threatened to erode the confidence gained from winning at Indiana.
“If we want to be a top team in this league, we can’t beat the best teams and then lose to teams we should beat,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to get these games. The last five minutes, I want the ball, to make things happen.”
The Pistons also got a huge game from Andre Drummond, who finished with 14 points, 16 rebounds and two blocked shots. Smith followed up 31- and 30-point outings with a 20-point game, including three consecutive baskets late as the Pistons built a seven-point lead, but his most memorable play came on the defensive end when he forced Jeff Green into a tough running hook shot that missed on the final possession out of a Boston timeout with five seconds remaining.
The Celtics substituted after their initial possession ended with Brandon Bass trying to score over Greg Monroe to no avail, Cheeks responding by sending Singler in for Monroe and switching Smith onto Green.
“They went small and when they went small, it helped us out a little bit,” Cheeks said. “We could put another small guy in there and it allowed Josh to guard their bigger guy, Jeff Green, who is pretty quick getting to the rim. We had the ability to match up with them. He forced a tough shot. Normally a play like that, there’s going to be an offensive rebound, but fortunately we were able to keep our hands around the rim to get the ball.”
The last rebound wasn’t corralled by Drummond, or Smith or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. It went to the littlest among them, who stood tallest for them in what might be remembered, wherever this season delivers them, as a signature Pistons win. Just as his coach requested, Brandon Jennings had the ball in his hands when it mattered most.