Jennings leads Pistons over Kings for fifth straight win
AUBURN HILLS — Stan Van Gundy isn’t ready to declare the Pistons ready to win the NBA title.
But after putting together their first five-game winning streak of the decade, things are finally starting to look up at the Palace.
Brandon Jennings scored 35 points while Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe added double-doubles as the Pistons routed the Sacramento Kings 112-95 to match the franchise’s longest streak since December 2009.
"Brandon was obviously fantastic," Van Gundy said. "He’s transformed his whole game in these last five games, and I’m not only talking about his offensive game. He’s been great on the bench — he’s always encouraging guys and giving them advice, and he’s making a lot more of an effort on defense."
Jennings thinks the whole team has stepped up.
"It isn’t just me — the whole team looks more comfortable," he said. "We’re sharing the ball and everyone is making plays out there. They made a run, but we just picked it up on the defensive end and took off."
There’s an obvious change in the Pistons — the five-game winning streak started as soon as they released Josh Smith — and it is naive to think that change hasn’t had an impact. Detroit is making more shots, both inside and outside, and Jennings has looked like a new player with the offense running through him instead of Smith.
Jodie Meeks, though, has been at least as important. When he missed the first 22 games of the season with a back injury, the Pistons didn’t have anyone who could consistently knock down 3-pointers. Meeks is far from a complete player, but his outside shooting threat has opened up shots for everyone else on the floor.
"We knew when we signed Jodie that he was going to be a huge part of our offense," Van Gundy said. "We’re finally seeing that impact. With him able to come off the bench and make shots, it means that we’re getting the same level of performance from our first unit and our second unit. That makes us a lot more dangerous."
Detroit also got a boost from Caron Butler, who hit two key jumpers to halt a late Kings rally, then dove on the floor to knock a loose ball to Andre Drummond for an uncontested dunk.
"Caron has been in this league for a long time, and he’s played in a lot of huge games, so there’s nothing that scares him," Van Gundy said. "We don’t have a lot of guys like that on this roster, so it is good to be able to count on Caron."
So the Pistons have gone from 5-23 to 10-23, but Van Gundy doesn’t want them to get too excited.
"I don’t think I’d go so far as to say that teams are afraid of us yet," he said. "There are a lot of teams that scare opponents a lot more than we do, but yes, we’re playing very well right now."
On a night where a lot of Detroit fans had their hearts broken in Dallas, there’s a small bit of consolation from Auburn Hills, where a lost season might not be gone after all.