One for the Road
Pistons rout defenseless 76ers as tune-up for rematch at Miami
It hasn’t happened with nearly the regularity they expected, or at least as they’d hoped, but when nights like Saturday come around and Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith flex their muscles, the Pistons see the team they want to become.
Granted, it came against the Philadelphia 76ers, 3-11 over their last 14 games and destined to be among the most legitimate of hopefuls to land a top-three pick when the NBA draft lottery is held on May 20.
But the Sixers have a solid frontcourt of veterans Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner – all believed to be available and coveted pieces as the NBA trade deadline countdown stands at 19 days – that the Pistons dominated in their 113-96 win Saturday at The Palace.
The tone was set early as the Pistons grabbed nine of the game’s first 10 rebounds and finished the first quarter with 10 offensive rebounds to just four Philadelphia defensive boards. Drummond put up eye-popping numbers despite being limited to 23 minutes by first foul trouble and then the blowout: 22 points, 14 boards and five blocked shots, making 10 of 11.
Monroe put up a nearly identical and equally impressive line with 21 points and 12 boards, making 8 of 10 shots, in 29 minutes. He added three assists – it could have been triple that, considering the missed layups and fouls Philadelphia administered to prevent easy baskets – plus four steals.
“This is the game we like to play,” Drummond said. “Not take as many jump shots and pounding the ball inside, trying to draw fouls. When Greg is having a game like that, it makes it easy for me. They’re focused on him and when he does miss a shot, I’m usually right there to tip it back in. The basketball we played today by pounding the ball inside and trying to get fouled was great for us.”
“It was something that just happened in the flow of the game,” Monroe said. “It’s not something we really talked about. Once it worked a few times, we kept going back to it and we were able to get a lot of success doing that.”
"Every game is important for us right now, whether it’s at home or on the road. We definitely want to play better at home."
- Greg Monroe on winning at home
Full game quotes
They might not have talked about it, but Cheeks clearly had it in mind. On the game’s very first possession, the Pistons ran a play designed to get Drummond a post-up opportunity, a rarity. Cheeks said because Drummond was guarding Hawes, a 7-footer who spend most of his time on offense on the perimeter, he wanted to get him involved with an early touch offensively.
“We posted the ball early, getting the ball in Greg’s hands and putting the ball in Andre’s hands,” Cheeks said. “Allowing those guys to play inside. … Andre was very active on the offensive end, and then Greg and Josh – it was a big strong suit of our game when we can offensive rebound like that.”
The Pistons finished with a whopping 32-12 edge in second-chance points from their 23 offensive rebounds and 58-44 rebounding edge. Smith just missed his own double-double with nine points and nine boards – plus four steals and seven assists – but Kyle Singler made it three Pistons with 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds as he finished with exactly those numbers.
It was the first time the Pistons had three players with 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds since Dec. 3, 1997 when Grant Hill had 27 and 16, Bison Dele 21 and 17 and Lindsey Hunter 20 and 11 in a triple-overtime game in which Hunter logged 57 minutes. Singler’s contributions were especially critical since the Pistons got just nine ineffective first-half minutes from Rodney Stuckey, who left complaining of dizziness.
“He was huge for them,” Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young said of Singler. “He’s been playing big for them all season long. That’s one of those guys who is like a silent assassin. He doesn’t really say too much, but he’s always cutting, he’s always moving, he’s always finding the right place to be. He’s getting baskets and he’s a big scorer for them. He can push the basketball, he can shoot and he can rebound. He’s a good player.”
About the only sore point for the Pistons was the frequency with which Philadelphia dented their paint. The 76ers scored 38 first-half points in the paint and finished with 64, though 16 came in the fourth quarter when the Pistons played without a center for much of the time.
Still, the Pistons held the team that plays at the NBA’s fastest tempo to 96 points and 43 percent shooting, significantly better numbers than their season averages.
“Communication has definitely been a big part of it,” Monroe said of the team’s two-game win streak in which it has held teams to 91.5 points a game. “That’s something we focus on in practice a whole lot. We spend an extended amount of time working on different coverages and being in the right position and communicating. I think it’s paying off.”
It won’t take long to put it to the ultimate test. The Pistons head to Miami on Super Bowl Sunday for a Monday rematch with the Heat. When they were there in early December, the Pistons shocked the two-time defending champions 107-97.
“We know what kind of attack they present,” Monroe said. “We have to come focused and ready to play.”