Storming Atlanta

Big games from Stuckey, Drummond, Monroe power Pistons road win

TEAM COLORS

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

WHITE HOT – The Pistons, eliminated from the playoffs officially when Atlanta won at Indiana on Sunday, hurt the Hawks’ chances of qualifying for the postseason by scoring a 102-95 road win. Atlanta remains in the No. 8 spot, ahead of New York by two games in the loss column. Rodney Stuckey scored 29 points, hitting six free throws in the final minute, and both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe put up impressive double-doubles for the Pistons. Drummond had 19 points and 17 rebounds and Monroe 21 points and 13 rebounds. The Pistons led most of the way and by as many as 13 points, but Atlanta went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to wipe out a 10-point lead. They went back up by three after three quarters and stretched the lead to seven on a Peyton Siva triple with under five minutes to play. The Hawks didn’t get closer than three points after that. Josh Smith, an Atlanta native who spent his first nine NBA season with the Hawks, missed the game with left knee tendinitis.

BLUE COLLAR – Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returned to his native Georgia and had a little extra hop in his step. Shortly after entering the game, he got to the rim, missed a shot but got to his own rebound before everyone else and laid it in. Later he recorded consecutive dunks, one on a lightning-quick drive and the second after a steal. Caldwell-Pope, who had a group of 20 to 30 friends and family seated behind the Detroit bench, finished with six points, three rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. Jonas Jerebko also had another strong game off the bench with eight points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Peyton Siva had 10 points, hitting 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, and two assists.

RED FLAG – As good as the Pistons were on the offensive boards, scoring 18 points on second-chance points in the first half alone and 26 for the game, they allowed the Hawks to come back after trailing by 13 by being too loose with the ball. The Pistons committed nine first-half turnovers that the Hawks converted into 16 points. They finished with 21 points off Detroit turnovers.



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The Pistons were supposed to have wrapped up their visits to Atlanta way back in January. But an ice storm that brought the city to its knees forced postponement to April, with the azaleas in full bloom and the grass a vibrant green. The only ice in Atlanta this time around extended from the shooting hands of Atlanta Hawks players. And the Pistons, thank you very much, won’t deny some credit.

“We held them to 38 percent defense. I told ’em that was the No. 1 stat to me,” John Loyer said after the 102-95 win, which at least put on hold a playoff clinching for the Hawks. “You hold a good offensive team like them to 38 percent, you’re going to give yourself a good chance to win the game.”

The Pistons had to find a new blueprint to win this one, too, because they played without native Atlantan Josh Smith. He sat with left knee tendinitis, replaced in the starting lineup by Rodney Stuckey, with Loyer riding his starters to get off to a good start but deftly juggling a three-man bench to great effect down the stretch.

Stuckey scored 29 and Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 40 points and 30 rebounds. But when the Hawks went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to erase a 10-point Pistons lead, Loyer threw Jonas Jerebko and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the game and the Pistons immediately answered back and regained the lead. Down the stretch, Peyton Siva sunk a couple of big 3-point baskets and continued to play with the magnetic aura that made him such a dynamic college star at Louisville.

“Not just this game, but for the past few games they’ve been playing really well,” said Monroe, who chalked up 21 points and 13 rebounds, about the newly configured bench. “So tonight, they just continued what they’ve been doing for the past few games.”

Caldwell-Pope had a noisy cheering section in a sparsely populated Philips Arena, the native Georgian estimating about 25 family members and another 25 to 30 students from his high school for whom he purchased tickets were seated several rows behind the Detroit bench. He gave them something to ooh and ahh about, too, with a few memorable dunks that showed off his knifing quickness and explosive athleticism.

“You could say that,” he grinned when I asked if he felt a little extra bounce in his step before familiar faces. “I just felt good to be in the rotation again and playing minutes like that. The first (dunk) got me a little juiced. I got tired of my shot getting blocked so I finished strong. The second one I got the steal and I wanted to finish that one, too.”

“I thought Kentavious was fabulous,” Loyer said. “Our numbers since Kentavious hasn’t played as many minutes are down in transition, points off turnovers, and you saw tonight when he gets steady minutes he gets his hands on a lot of balls. He’s active.”

Kyle Korver is one of Loyer’s all-time favorite players, coaching him as a Philadelphia assistant in the early years of Korver’s career. But the player who holds the NBA all-time record for consecutive games with a made 3-pointer didn’t get off a shot of any kind until five minutes into the second quarter, hounded first by Kyle Singler and then by Cadlwell-Pope. He finished just 4 of 16.

“Ken was big,” Loyer said. “You chase a guy like Kyle Korver all night – both him and Singler – you’re chasing, to me, the best shooter in the NBA, and they both did a fabulous job.”

“We just wanted to come in and give our teammates energy,” Caldwell-Pope said. “And we did that. And we stayed in the game for a long time. We just tried to continue to do that every time we came in.”

Caldwell-Pope had six points and three steals, Jerebko eight points and eight rebounds and Siva 10 points and two assists. Not known as an outside shooter, Siva hit 3 of 4 from the arc, including one from 25 feet with 4:25 to play to put his team up by seven.

“He’s got a big heart,” Loyer said. “He jumped up and made a couple of shots right at the buzzer. The kid’s not scared of anything. His leadership, the guys rooting for him … he really came up big for us and did a nice job defensively. He really sticks his nose in there and guards.”

Most pleasing, perhaps, was the response to Atlanta’s 14-0 run, the type of sequence that has led to enough losses to have eliminated the Pistons from playoff consideration in early April.

“We just kept playing,” Monroe said. “We did what we had to do to take back control of the game. Teams are always going to make runs in this league. We took our hit and we came back.”

The win gave the Pistons their first back-to-back victories under Loyer. With only four games to go, it’s too late to salvage what they fully expected would end with a playoffs berth. But they got out of Atlanta with the satisfaction of not having played a role in the Hawks clinching a berth, either.