I started watching tonight’s game with doubt, dispair, and expecting another loss. What happened on Saturday night against the visiting Denver Nuggets surprised me a bunch.
The Pistons played with swagger, they played defense when they had to, and they played together.
In the first, Denver led 14-4 early behind 3’s by Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye. However, the Pistons fought back as Brandon Jennings got engaged, Josh Smith was operating in the low post, and Andre Drummond was active on the glass. The Pistons led 30-29 after one quarter of play and Drummond had nine rebounds in the quarter.
The Nuggets opened up a 44-38 lead in the second quarter behind back-to-back buckets by Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller. Foye threw an alley-oop to Kenneth Faried then knocked down a triple for a 55-48 Nuggets lead. Then, Jennings went to work.
Jennings found Drummond for a dunk, found a cutting Kyle Singler for an easy layup, found Smith for a jam, and he hit back-to-back triples to excite the Palace crowd. Jennings’ spurt helped give the Pistons a 65-61 lead argyle half.
The Pistons opened up a 90-75 lead in the third behind more Jennings. Jennings set up Drummond for a dunk, found Greg Monroe for a layup, knocked down a pull up jumper, then he was fouled on a 3 by Darrell Arthur and knocked down all three free throws. Jennings came back on the next possession and knocked down another triple for a 93-77 lead.
He ended the third on a pass to Monroe for a slam and the Pistons led 97-86 after three.
Now when the game entered the fourth quarter, I immediately thought, “Oh man, here we go. They’ll blow it in the fourth. They always do.” Not tonight.
Denver got to within 103-92 but Rodney Stuckey converted an And-1 to make it 106-92. The Nuggets came right back on an 8-0 run to cut it to 106-100 on a Fournier jumper, but Smith had a hook shot, Stuckey had a jumper, and Drummond had a steal while jumping the passing lane and finished an acrobatic layup on the break for a 112-102 lead with 4:48 to play.
Stuckey had a layup and a jumper before Jennings came back in to fins uh what he started. He stripped Foye and got an easy layup in transition, then he knocked down back-to-back 3’s and that was it. The Pistons won the fourth quarter 29-23 and the game itself 126-109. The 126 points were a season high for the Pistons this season.
Jennings recorded 35 points and 12 assists to become the first Piston to record those numbers since Isiah Thomas in 1988. Smith had 30, 10 boards, and eight assists, Drummond had 18 and 15 rebounds, and Stuckey had all 19 of the Pistons’ bench points.
For one night at least, the summer free agent signings if Jennings and Smith looked very, very nice. Both players scoring 30 and recording double-doubles. Denver is in slouch team. The Nuggets are a team in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and the Pistons have had their troubles in the fourth quarter, against Western Conference opponents, and at home this season. Tonight, they conquered all three problems.
For the playoff crowd, the Pistons are now only .5 game back of the Charlotte Bobcats for the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.