Pistons Win Streak at 4

Contributions across the board as Pistons stay hot, crush Nets

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

– Ten days ago, the Pistons were the least likely NBA team to go on a four-game winning streak. They finished a 0-4 road trip by losing at New Jersey, but after beating the Nets 109-92 Friday at home – a game in which they led by 30 late in the third quarter – they’ve doubled their season’s win total and now own a record of 8-20. It was a thorough team win. They hadn’t scored 100 points in regulation yet this season, but did it this time with nearly six minutes to spare. Five players scored in double figures, including Jonas Jerebko (20) and Ben Gordon (14) off the bench. Greg Monroe racked up another double-double (18 and 11). Rodney Stuckey took 10 shots yet produced 19 points. The Pistons shot 54 percent and held New Jersey to 41 percent, a figure greatly inflated by points scored after the blowout was assured. New Jersey scored only 33 first-half points, a season-best for the Pistons’ defense.

BLUE COLLAR – The Pistons had a handful or more players with stat lines that jumped off the page in their romp over New Jersey. Jason Maxiell really wasn’t one of them. He scored six points to go with five rebounds in 20 minutes. But he had one very loud number: four blocked shots, three of them in the game’s first five minutes. The Pistons fell behind 7-0, but they seemed to draw energy from Maxiell’s intimidation, going on a 23-4 run once they finally broke the ice. The Pistons are now 4-1 since Maxiell moved into the starting lineup.

RED FLAG – None for the Pistons, but potentially a very big one for New Jersey. The Nets’ grand vision was to use their coming move to Brooklyn to lure major free agents, and there is plenty of speculation that Dwight Howard would like to come north to join forces with Williams. But Williams is coming up on free agency as well and other teams are angling to clear enough cap space to land both players. Without much in the way of a supporting cast now and little prospect of adding any help, nights like Friday’s don’t do much to further New Jersey’s case. Williams, two nights after scoring 27 in the second half against the Pistons and 34 for the game, finished with a pedestrian 14 points, four assists and one rebound.

When a coach can throw a dart while blindfolded at the final box score and know it will land on the name of someone who contributed, chances are he’ll sleep pretty well. Lawrence Frank ought to sleep like a baby over the weekend.

The Pistons, 10 days ago dragging a seven-game losing streak home from a spirit-crushing road trip, suddenly own a four-game winning streak, the latest their most thorough, most convincing win of the Frank regime, a 109-92 spirit crushing of the New Jersey Nets – the last team to beat them.

“We’re just trying to get better,” said Frank, refusing to bask in success just as he declined to wallow in failure. “This is going to be a process. We’re far from figuring it out. Are we getting better? Yes. But it’s an everyday grind of trying to get where we want to go.”

The Pistons even spotted New Jersey a 7-0 lead – and then went on a 23-4 run to administer exactly the swift, emphatic knockout punch they’d been absorbing too often in a 4-20 start to the season. Ten days after they reached that nadir, they’ve doubled their win total.

“I see improvement,” said one of the veterans best equipped to lend perspective, Tayshaun Prince. “When teams make a run on us, we’ve been able to respond back. That’s what’s been good about our little streak. We’ve also played some solid defense, got rebounds and just pushed it. We haven’t run a lot of plays; we’ve tried to attack early and it’s been opening up a lot of things for us the last few games.”

The official box score credited the Pistons with 17 fast-break points, but Frank uses different parameters and confirmed what eyeballs suspected: The Pistons’ running game was critical to them overwhelming New Jersey, building a 30-point lead before the third quarter was out.

“We were able to play in the open floor,” he said. “Our stats are a little bit different than theirs. Rodney’s (Stuckey) ability to get into the paint was huge on the offensive end. Our guys have a good rhythm. We have to continue to raise the bar and do better, but they’re playing with a good rhythm and a good spirit.”

Stuckey was superb, scoring 19 points to go with five assists on 7 of 10 shooting, getting to the line six times in the decisive first half. He also was chiefly responsible for throttling Nets star Deron Williams, who 48 hours after dropping 34 on the Pistons managed 14 points, four assists and one rebound. Stuckey drew the defensive assignment because Brandon Knight was limited to five first-half minutes by foul trouble, but he had 10 points, three boards and two assists in the third quarter alone and finished with 13, seven and five as he continued to help the Pistons get easy transition points.

“We’re a young team,” said Jonas Jerebko, who led the Pistons with 20 points off the bench in 25 minutes. “We can run the floor, and once we get the ball up the floor we make plays. Brandon gets the ball up the floor, he can finish, he can pass it and that’s the way we want to play.”

The stagnant offense that was a hallmark of the 4-20 start seems to have vanished. The Pistons shot 54 percent and racked up 25 assists with four players registering four or more.

“We’ve been watching a lot of film, more so we’ve been adding more plays,” Prince said. “Coach has thrown a couple of plays in every once in a while just to throw different things in our repertoire. When we ran plays earlier in the season, guys tried to look for that first option. Guys are starting to understand there are more options to one play. If something breaks down, we can do some things different. That’s been a big plus for us.”

Greg Monroe registered another double-double – that’s 10 in his last 11 games – with 18 points and 11 boards despite playing less than 30 minutes and not being a focal point, for a change.

“We probably ran three plays for him and we didn’t score on any of those, but he scored on offensive rebounds, rim runs, drive and dishes,” Frank said. “You just figure it out. That’s good. I don’t care who scores; it just comes down to us scoring more than the other team, period.”

Ben Gordon, in his second game back, scored efficiently again – 14 on 6 of 10 shooting. Prince had eight points, seven boards and four assists. Jason Maxiell’s impact went well beyond his six points and five boards, too. Maxiell’s four blocked shots included three in the first quarter as the Pistons quickly pushed back momentum in the face of New Jersey’s early spurt. Throw a dart, you’ll find a contributor.

“It started with our defense after that initial burst,” Frank said. “We were able to get out in transition, share the ball, defend the 3-point line, limit their second shots … all in all, a very good effort.”

They’re almost – almost – becoming the norm.