Outside shooting helps Pistons earn first win
AUBURN HILLS — The Pistons aren’t the type of team that is going to win a lot of games with 3-point shooting, especially with both Jodie Meeks and Cartier Martin in street clothes.
Unlike last year, though, they can apparently do it once in a while.
The Pistons hit 11 3-pointers Wednesday night, only three fewer than they had in their first three games combined, and needed all of them to beat the New York Knicks 98-95. Four of them came from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who came into the game having missed 14 of 16.
"That was great to see, because he hit the first three, which really got us going, and then he hit another big one down the stretch when we were dying out there," said Stan Van Gundy.
Jonas Jerebko, D.J. Augustin and Caron Butler also helped out from behind the line, leading the Pistons to a 87-71 advantage with 6:38 to play.
That’s when, as happened so many times a year ago, things got ugly. Tim Hardaway Jr. started New York’s rally with a 3-pointer, and the Pistons didn’t respond well.
"We missed free throws, and even though we weren’t turning the ball over, we stopped making plays," Van Gundy said. "We were committing bad fouls, and we didn’t grab rebounds."
Josh Smith even started shooting long jumpers, drawing boos from the crowd, but it wasn’t like things had gone any better when he shot inside. Smith finished the game going 2-17 and also missed a pair of free throws.
"I don’t know what happened with Josh tonight, but we certainly don’t expect him to play like that very often," Greg Monroe said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, he’s going to make most of those shots."
Smith even missed two dunks, getting one stuffed back into his face by Jason Smith and coming up short on another. However, he made up for his offensive woes by playing a key role on the other end of the floor. Smith, with a little help from Butler, held Carmelo Anthony to 5-21 shooting.
"I thought he played good defense tonight," Van Gundy said. "If he keeps playing with that kind of effort — if our team keeps playing with that kind of effort — we’re going to make this work."
It didn’t look they would in the fourth quarter, though. After Amar’e Stoudemire scored five quick points, including a three-point play when the Pistons fell asleep on defense, Hardaway added a 3-pointer and a layup to make it 91-86 with 2:08 left.
"I thought the play when we let them throw the ball the length of the floor to Amar’e and he got the plus-one, that was what changed things around," Brandon Jennings said. "That’s when you started thinking about the games like this that we lost last year."
Caldwell-Pope didn’t help matters when he missed a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds left, but Detroit hung on when the Knicks couldn’t grab a rebound of an intentionally missed free throw.
"This one feels good, because there were only three or four other teams that hadn’t won a game," Jennings said. "We didn’t want to be the last one."
Wednesday’s win means they won’t be, but it isn’t a formula they will be able to repeat on demand.