Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
The Pistons endured a furious fourth quarter rally by the Kings to win their third straight game for the first time this season. Greg Monroe had 18 points and 11 rebounds in a more efficient game than his controversial counterpart, improving his record to 5-1 against the Kings in his young career.
I'm going to build off all the hot talk that Shinons* bestowed upon us after the Bucks win: The Pistons have now won five of their last six games, including three straight for the first time this season. With 48 games left in the season, the Pistons are just 4 games back of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Excuse me, I need a minute to myself.
Despite nearly wasting another 15+ point lead, the Pistons survived at the finish by six, 103-97. Austin Daye hit the clutchest shot of his Pistons life with 11 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach, ending any chance short of a miracle of Jimmer Fredette, who had 13 points in the fourth, and the Kings from stealing the game.
The Pistons' bench, which has been nothing but a miracle lately, once again pushed the Pistons out ahead of its opponent by leading a 23-7 run in the second quarter. The remarkable run was stamped hard by an Andre Drummond steal and emphatic dunk. Drummond finished with seven points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 21-plus minutes. He's good.
Now, to address the (taller, fatter) elephant in the room - Greg Monroe once again showed why he should not be thrown around in trade rumors involving Demarcus Cousins. Monroe quietly outplayed the "louder" Cousins, again, scoring 18 points on eight fewer shot attempts and grabbing 11 rebounds. Cousins is athletic and was admittedly impressive at times, especially with 14 rebounds and a few steals, but I thought Monroe overall trumped Cousins' aggregate numbers, not to mention Monroe also had two steals (one the box score didn't account for) and two blocks, including one on Cousins. Monroe's record against Cousins is now 5-1.
The Pistons put their undefeated 2013 record to the test on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks.
* Brandon Knight had a good start to a fresh year, scoring 20 and assisting four baskets. A majority of Knight's production came before coming down awkwardly on his ankle. The injury might be something worth keeping an eye on, especially with Stuckey still out.
* Will Bynum was also solid in his back up PG duties, scoring 15 points and dishing four dimes. Both Bynum and Knight had two turnovers each.
* Villanueva was ejected in the 2nd quarter for a dubious flagrant 2 foul on the ill-named Isaiah Thomas. Villanueva's not entirely innocent, but I didn't think it was bad enough to render an ejection. After the foul, Cousins charged in and lightly shoved Villanueva out of the way. The shove was nonconsequential and it looked like Cousins had cooled off a little before getting between CV31 and Thomas - the run from the 3-point line is a long, tiring one. I thought for sure he was going to clock someone at first.