Pistons 114, Kings 108
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)
Lawrence Frank loves defense. His Detroit Pistons managed to play just enough of it Friday night.
After allowing 88 points through the first three quarters, the Pistons outscored the Sacramento Kings in the fourth to win 114-108.
''That was fun,'' Frank said after the Pistons scored 28 points compared to the Kings' 20 in the final quarter. ''It wasn't exactly the kind of the grind-it-out defensive epic you used to see here in the 80s, but our guys made just enough stops at the end to win it.''
Rodney Stuckey scored a season-high 36 points and rookie Brandon Knight added 23 points and 10 assists.
''I love playing with Brandon, and he is improving every day,'' said Stuckey, who missed a career high by four points. ''We're going to have a lot of years together, and it is only going to get better.''
Detroit has won six of its last eight games after a 4-20 start.
''There's been a lot of improvement since Christmas,'' Knight said. ''Our offense has been pretty good all along, but we're playing a lot better on the defensive end.''
Tayshaun Prince finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Stuckey was 12 for 20 from the floor and 11 for 12 from the free-throw line.
''We were getting easy buckets just by pushing the ball,'' Stuckey said. ''We were getting out on the break, Brandon was pushing the ball, and I was getting rim attacks. That's my game.''
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Marcus Thornton added 24.
''We did everything well until late in the game,'' Kings coach Keith Smart said. ''We made some critical mistakes - just plays that we're not thinking the game all the way through. This was a tough loss, because we played so great and then gave it right back.''
The Kings threatened to pull away several times in the first three quarters, but couldn't stop Stuckey. His pair of free throws at the end of the third gave him 31 points and pulled Detroit within 88-86.
Knight's layup put the Pistons ahead with 10:15 to play. After the teams traded the advantage several times, the rookie had a three-point play to make it 102-100 Detroit with four minutes left.
The Kings scored the next four points, but Knight came through again, hitting a 3-pointer to put the Pistons up 105-104 with 2:17 left.
Stuckey followed with a triple of his own on Detroit's next possession to make it a four-point game.
''That was just great teamwork all around,'' Knight said. ''Tayshaun found me for a 3, and then Body (Ben Wallace) laid two perfect screens to open up the next two baskets. Everyone was doing their thing.''
Cousins and Knight traded baskets, and the Pistons clinched the game from the free-throw line.
''That was tough, man,'' Tyreke Evans said. ''We have to learn to clean our game and close teams out. That's what good teams do.''
Notes: Isaiah Thomas made the first start of his career in the building where his namesake won NBA titles with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990. Thomas finished with 13 points and four assists. Isiah Thomas had 31 points in his first start, back in 1981. ... Cousins decisively won the battle of the second-year post players, as Detroit's Greg Monroe finished with three points and eight rebounds. Cousins was picked fifth and Monroe seventh in the 2010 draft.