Three days after flying across the Atlantic and back for a game in London, the Pistons came out Sunday and beat the Boston Celtics, 103-88.
“We got into the gym when we got back, just to get the jet lag out of here and get some shots up,” said Brandon Knight, who finished with 15 points. “We had some great workouts and really got prepared for this game.”
Knight had the highlight of the night, a startling fast-break dunk in traffic where he sailed past Kevin Garnett.
“Brandon had phenomenal energy tonight,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “He was attacking well in transition and made some nice advance passes.
“At times, he got a little sped up and that hurt us with turnovers, but his heart was in the right place.”
Knight did end up with seven turnovers, but that wasn’t as many as his opponent for the night, Rajon Rondo. Rondo almost ended with a quadruple-double, finishing with 15 assists, nine rebounds, nine turnovers and eight points.
“I knew he was going to try to make everything tough for me and that he was going to have the ball for the whole game,” Knight said. “He’s an all-star for a reason, but I just wanted to play my game, get myself going and compete with him as much as possible.”
Knowing they might not have the legs for a second-half rally, Detroit did everything it could to put the game away early. They led 17-5 after eight minutes, but Boston had the margin down to 27-18 by quarter’s end.
The Pistons surged again early in the second, moving the margin to 36-18, but that 18-point lead vanished in under nine minutes. When Courtney Lee hit a pair of free throws with a minute left in the first half, Boston had tied the score at 48.
It looked like the Celtics were set to blow past a tired Pistons team, but Detroit scored the last four points of the first half to build a little momentum.
That was all they needed. By the end of the third quarter, Celtics coach Doc Rivers had already resorted to intentionally fouling Andre Drummond, but the rookie foiled the strategy by hitting four of six free throws.
Drummond’s relative success at the line seemed to break Boston’s spirits, and they trailed by double digits for the entire fourth quarter.
An infuriated Rivers dressed down his team in a lengthy postgame session, then only took one question in his press conference.
“This was awful,” he said. “I’m clearly not doing my job for this team because I can’t find a group of players that will play hard.
“I don’t think these guys are being honest with each other and I do not think they are committed to being a good basketball team.”
While the Celtics were imploding again at the Palace — they lost 103-83 in their first visit of the season — the Pistons were getting production from most of the roster. Detroit finished with six players in double figures, all of whom scored between 13 and 16 points.
That was enough to make up for 21 turnovers — the most the Pistons have had in a win this season.
“Overall, the turnovers were obviously a big problem tonight, and our ability to get back on defense was a problem at times,” Frank said. “But the positives are that we held a good team under 40 percent, held them to 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“We had six guys in double figures and four guys with five or more assists. Those are all things we can build on.”
The Pistons won’t get any help from the schedule — Sunday was the first of four games in six nights, including games at Chicago and Miami — but a jet-lagged win over the Celtics was the best way to start a tough stretch of games.