Frontcourt dominates as Pistons win 3rd straight in Jennings’ homecoming
They can dock him for political incorrectness, but not for honesty.
Jennings posted a double-double in his return to the place he spent his first four NBA seasons, where they marked the occasion by booing him lustily whenever he touched the ball. But the real story was the domination of the frontcourt Jennings extolled upon coming to the Pistons in late July.
Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith combined for 59 points and 42 rebounds and the Pistons beat Milwaukee 105-98 for their third straight win, completing a two-game road trip that also included a win at Miami 24 hours earlier and a diverted flight that required a bus ride to foggy Milwaukee from Chicago, arriving at 4 a.m. Central time Wednesday morning.
“Drummond played big, Greg Monroe played big,” Jennings said. “I was just telling Greg, there was one point in the game where I was just looking at all three of ’em crashing the boards and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ Like, that’s a scary sight down there. Those guys played big tonight. They came in here and did a great job. They took a lot of heat off me.”
'Those guys played big tonight. They came in here and did a great job. They took a lot of heat off me.”- Brandon Jennings on the Pistons frontcourt
Full game quotes
They were never bigger together, over their first 19 games, than in the third quarter. The Bucks threw a zone defense at the Pistons that sparked a 31-19 Milwaukee second-quarter edge and a 50-45 halftime lead. Less than two minutes into the second half, Mo Cheeks – never one to be accused of having a quick trigger with timeouts – brought the Pistons to the sidelines after watching in horror as John Henson scored on a breakaway dunk.
The Pistons promptly went on a 16-0 run, Monroe and Smith combining for 13 of the points and a Jennings triple accounting for the other three. For the third quarter, in which the Pistons outscored Milwaukee 35-17, the big three combined for 27 points and 13 rebounds.
“I didn’t curse or anything like that,” Cheeks said afterward. “I just didn’t like, the first minute, for them to get a layup. That’s something we talked about coming out in the third quarter is getting back in transition, eliminate the easy baskets, and the first minute or so they got an easy basket. Right after that, we went on a little run.”
“He was like, ‘That stuff shouldn’t happen. We should foul him. Teams should fear us because we’ve got three shot-blockers on our team,’ ” Drummond said. “We kind of let them get a few easy buckets and let them get started up.”
Drummond logged another dominant night with 24 points and 19 rebounds, becoming the first Piston with three straight 18-plus rebound games since Ben Wallace did it nine straight times a decade ago. Monroe finished with 18 and 17 (12 and 12 after halftime) as Drummond and Monroe became the first Pistons with 17-plus rebound games since two games named Laimbeer and Rodman did it in 1990. And Smith added 17 and six, all but four of his points and all of his rebounds coming after halftime.
“Josh, Andre and Monroe were physical inside and physical rebounding the ball,” Cheeks said. “That was the big key. We were really going to the glass, rebounding the ball, and when they do that we can get out and run, we can get a lot of early post-ups, and when those three are playing like that inside, we’re tough to beat.”
Drummond senses the Pistons are figuring it out now, nearly a quarter of the way into the season.
“We’re really starting to gel and starting to find ourselves, finding an identity,” he said. “The first half was tough for us. We let fatigue get to us a little bit. We had a long night but we came in the locker room and said, ‘We can’t let that be an excuse for us.’ We came out the next half and played like we’re supposed to play. We clicked on all cylinders. We knew our jump shots weren’t really going to fall because our legs were tired, so we drove to the hoop and get the foul calls.”
The win brings the Pistons to within a game of .500 at 9-10. In addition to it being their third straight win, it was also their third straight road win, the first time that’s happened since November 2008, another sign of the Pistons’ developing chemistry, and perhaps a little maturity for the way they managed to put the euphoria of winning at Miami behind them.
“It says we’re getting a little in sync,” Cheeks said. “We’ve still got a long way to go. If we just keep defending the way we’ve been defending, keep rebounding the ball and sharing the ball offensively, I think that’s when we’re at our best. Just the commitment to play together and keep trying to win games.”
“This was a statement game for (Jennings) and for us,” Drummond said. “We came off the win we had last night. Most teams would be pretty excited about that kind of win. We kind of buckled down in the second half and knew what we needed to do.”