Josh Smith leads Detroit Pistons past NBA’s best

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Trying to bounce back from yet another tough loss where they blew yet another fourth quarter lead, the Detroit Pistons entered an arena where they hadn’t won since January 29, 2008. The Indiana Pacers also owned the NBA’s best record and were unbeaten at home. Piece of cake.

The Pistons started off just like they did last night against the Portland Trail Blazers, by isolating Josh Smith on one side of the floor and letting him operate. He missed his first shot but Andre Drummond was there for the dunk to clean up the miss. Brandon Jennings then found a cutting Smith for a dunk and Jennings found him again for a slam and a 6-2 lead.

Big point was when Drummond picked up his 2nd foul with 9:31 left in the quarter. Josh Harrellson, the man they call Jorts, came off the bench and provided great minutes. He drove right past David West for a layup and later, on just one possession, grabbed three offensive rebounds and found Smith for a layup. Harrellson then knocked down a triple for a 28-20 lead. He was all over the place. The Pistons led 31-28 after a quarter of play.

Will Bynum, playing after missing quite a few games and getting Chauncey Billups’ minutes as he won’t play the 2nd night of a back-to-back, started Detroit’s scoring off in the 2nd with a floater. Then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a triple and a 36-31 lead. Later, after Indiana tied it at 44, Caldwell-Pope knocked down another 3 and Smith had a jumper over Paul George for a 49-44 lead.

On the next possession, Smith drove to the rim but missed. He felt like he was fouled by George and argued with referee David Jones up the court. Jones had enough and T’d up Smith after George Hill was fouled by Caldwell-Pope. Indiana was within 49-47 after the three free throws.

The Pistons would answer with a Harrellson jumper, Greg Monroe followed with a jumper, and Jonas Jerebko hopped off the bench and knocked down a buzzer beating 3 for a 56-49 halftime lead. The Pistons led despite Drummond playing only three minutes due to foul trouble.

The beginning of the third quarter featured a lot of Smith. He hit a jumper, followed by another jumper, and a third jumper, and he had a nifty up and under move by Roy Hibbert. He scored the Pistons first eight points in the quarter. Indiana kept pace behind West and Lance Stephenson.

Later, Caldwell-Pope stole a bad George pass and raced down for a layup, but he missed. Drummond ran the floor and put back slammed the rookie’s miss. That’s why you run the floor. Jennings finished a layup on the following possession for a 72-61 lead.

Bynum closed out the third by throwing a lob to Drummond and Detroit led 79-73 after three. A foul-less quarter for Drummond, a good sign.

Now for the fourth quarter, where the Pistons have had their struggles all season. They blew a 13 point fourth quarter lead last night in 111-109 overtime loss to the Trail Blazers. How would they fare in this one?

After a Bynum jumper gave the Pistons an 82-73 lead, Piston-killer Luis Scola had back-to-back jumpers to make it 82-77 and the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd began to get loud.

Head coach Mo Cheeks called timeout and Detroit went back up 10 after Monroe had some free throws and Smith knocked down a deep 3 for an 87-77 lead with 8:11 to play.

The Pacers responded with a 10-2 run. Scola had eight of the 10 points while Stephenson had the other two. It was an 89-87 Pistons lead with 4:55 to play.

Detroit answered that run with a Jennings lob to Smith for a slam. George had a layup to make it 91-89, but Jennings knocked down a cold blooded 3 for a 94-89 Pistons lead with 3:47 to play.

Both teams had some empty possessions before Jennings hit some free throws for a 96-89 lead. Indiana had one last run. Stephenson had some free throws and after a Smith missed 3, Stephenson knocked down a wide open 3 to bring the Pacers to within 96-94 with 1:17 left.

On the next possession, Hibbert fouled Smith hard and Smith knocked down both calmly for a 98-94 lead. Then Smith had a monster block on West and the Pistons iced it with free throws. The Pistons defeated the Pacers 101-96 for their first win in Indiana since 2008 and handed Indiana their first home loss of the season.

Smith led the way with 30 points, Monroe had 13 and 12 boards, Jennings had 18 and eight assists, Drummond had nine and nine in 20 minutes, and Harrellson had seven and 10 off the bench. Harrellson was huge.

My take away from this game was that Smith was featured more. Cheeks started the game with Smith isolated on the block against George, just like he did last night against Nicolas Batum when he had 31 points in the loss. Smith is a good player, when he isn’t launching jump shots sure, he was making them tonight, but that was because he got in a groove early on the low block. Cheeks may have found something there.

For Drummond, he needs to learn how to keep his hands to himself. The Pistons can’t afford to have Drummond only play 20 minutes. Luckily, the team picked up the slack, but he needs to be on the floor.

Overall, terrific win. The Indiana Pacers are title contenders and the Pistons beat them in their building. One night after suffering a heart breaking loss to the Blazers. Great resiliency.

-Ky Carlin

Twitter: @Ky_Carlin