Signature Win

Pistons withstand Miami rally, pull away to beat NBA champs on road


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

The Pistons led by 17 points early in the fourth quarter, withstood a furious 20-6 run led by Miami’s bench and pulled away to beat the Heat 107-97 in the most significant win of Maurice Cheeks’ first season as coach. The Pistons held Miami scoreless on four straight possessions after the Heat crept within three points at 91-88, then big steals by Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings led to a Smith dunk and a Greg Monroe layup to give the Pistons a nine-point lead with two minutes to play. Kyle Singler, who hit just 8 of 34 3-point shots to start the season, scored 18 points and sunk four of his first five 3-point attempts to lead seven Pistons in double figures. Andre Drummond recorded his 13th double-double with 10 points and 18 rebounds.

Singler wasn’t the only Piston to come off the bench and give them a big lift at Miami. Jonas Jerebko, whose role has varied from game to game and sometimes from half to half, gave quality minutes in both halves against the Heat. He finished with seven points and three rebounds in 10 minutes. His corner three early in the fourth quarter gave the Pistons an 85-68 lead. Gold star also goes to Brandon Jennings, who logged 44 minutes as Cheeks went with a three-guard rotation. Jennings, who finished with 15 points and five assists, played the entire second half.

Andre Drummond hasn’t been consistently prone to foul trouble, but when he collects a few early he hasn’t been able to master the art of not picking up the critical one that sends him to the bench for long stretches. He got off to a dynamic start, grabbing six of the game’s first eight rebounds, but two quick fouls sent him to the bench less than four minutes into the game. After sinking a basket to start the third quarter, he picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the half. Drummond was limited to 24 minutes, but his impact on the game was clearly felt.

infographic 131203

MIAMI – The Pistons got their signature win. Now they want to know if they can duplicate it, time after time, signature after signature, so that even the most accomplished hand-writing experts won’t be able to tell the difference.

The Pistons beat Miami. At Miami. And, yeah, Dwyane Wade sat one out. But it was still a game that’s followed a script the Heat have acted out – and won – scores of times over the past three-plus seasons, since Wade coaxed buddies LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach to be his wing men.

It was also a script the Pistons knew a little too well. They let winnable games against the Bulls and Lakers get away at home last week, ceding 21-0 and 12-0 runs in the fourth quarters to undermine a home stand that might have turned their season around.

Now they hope their stand in Miami, when the Heat whittled a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to three in five minutes but couldn’t get over the hump as the Pistons won 107-97, becomes their turning point, the game that’s a part of their DNA the next time somebody’s charging in the fourth quarter.

“It’s something we have to carry over to win games,” said Greg Monroe, who contributed 16 points, six rebounds and five assists to the win, in which seven Pistons hit double figures. “We’ve been doing a good job of making sure we’re in the game or up in the game the first three quarters or the first half. Then we have those letdowns. We definitely have to find a way to take this game and let it carry over into other games. It starts immediately. We have to change it now. We can’t wait on it.”

Kyle Singler was a part of dozens of big wins at Duke and started for a team that went to the Spanish league finals in his season abroad, but he has no experience with fourth-quarter success in the NBA.

“It is a great feeling...we played hard the whole game...We just took advantage of the lead that we had and just kept pushing forward.”

- Andre Drummond on the win
Full game quotes

“I really don’t know,” he said when I asked him if he thought holding off the two-time defending NBA champions in their building would be a springboard for the Pistons. “I don’t have that experience yet. What was good about tonight was we didn’t play perfect down the stretch – there were some possessions we just didn’t run the set the way we should have – and what was neat to see, we didn’t fold. We got some stops on defense and we were able to finish the game when the games previous, we would have lost.”

Singler led the Pistons with 18 points, and the signs that he was emerging from his 3-point slump – hitting 4 of his last 9 coming into Miami after a dreadful start to the season – came into dramatic focus. Singler hit 4 of 6 – the last a desperation launch from 30 feet with LeBron James draped on him as the shot clock expired – and also gave the Pistons five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Singler’s outburst led the Pistons, who came into the game mired in 30th in the NBA in 3-point shooting, their second straight good showing from the arc. It’s no great revelation to say an improved 3-point game will go a long way toward the Pistons turning around their 8-10 record, given the continued development of their inside game as keyed by Andre Drummond, who grabbed 18 rebounds in 23 foul-plagued minutes.

“I think it helps us a whole lot,” Monroe said. “Teams are going to pack it in because of our personnel. It’s going to be one of the keys to our success.”

But the 3-point shot of the night belonged to Brandon Jennings, who hit a bomb to give the Pistons a six-point lead with 4:32 left after they hadn’t scored – nor gotten off a quality shot against a hyper-aggressive Miami defense – in more than three minutes.

“It was like, finally, we got a shot to go in,” said Jennings, who was often trapped 30 feet from the basket in the fourth quarter. “It was almost like a three-minute stretch where we weren’t even able to get a bucket or get into our sets. To have one finally go down, it was like – whew, all right.”

“It was definitely a big help,” Monroe said. “We were in a little bit of trouble.”

Maurice Cheeks burned two timeouts trying to blunt Miami’s momentum. His tactical move was having Jennings give a dribble handoff to Rodney Stuckey, whose greater strength allowed him to attack the Heat defense. Stuckey scored six of his 16 down the stretch, including making all four of his free throws.

“They are so aggressive on the pick-and-roll defense that it ends up into a turnover and we held the ball a little bit more than we wanted to,” Cheeks said. “We got a lot of good performances from a lot of people and we just held our composure. We knew at some point they’d make a run and make some shots and we just had to hold our composure. Brandon made that big three and we were able to hold on.”

Josh Smith and Jennings also turned the tables on Miami, making big steals of their own that were converted into a Smith dunk and a Monroe layup. Just when another game was playing according to form – for both the NBA champions, who took a 9-1 home record into the game, and their opponent – the Pistons flipped the script.

“I don’t know what they were thinking,” Monroe said, “but we definitely felt like we had to take control of the game back and we did that.”

Now … can they do it again? And again?