Jennings was amazing in the first half. All-time good. His 16 first-half assists was a franchise record, tying him with the organization's all-time best point guard -- Isiah Thomas. Jennings was on pace to break the NBA record of 30 set by Scott Skiles in 1990, and he was doing it without turning the ball over a single time. As a result of Jennings and his teammates' unselfish play, the Pistons smoked the Suns through the first 24 minutes, 64-51.
As has been the case all too often this season, though, the Pistons kind of fell apart in the second half. Perhaps it was more a case of dead legs from playing in the back-end of a back-to-back with travel mixed in, or their fourth game in five days, than the classic Pistons' second-half collapse, but either way, it was all too hauntingly familiar.
A night after coming back from 16 down, the Pistons almost blew their own 16-point cushion Saturday. The Suns hit 5 threes in the third and another 4 in the fourth, coming all the way back to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip.
At the 5:48 mark of the fourth quarter, head coach Maurice Cheeks strangely went with a Josh Smith, Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Will Bynum and Brandon Jennings lineup for an extended time, leaving Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, and their double-doubles, on the bench in the most crucial minutes of the game. Vince Ellis of the Freep said it was to counter the Suns' three-point barrage.
Small Ball eked it out in spite of its sense. Tied 105-105, Josh Smith had no choice at the end of a shot clock but to chuck his first three-pointer with 27 seconds left in the game, and of course the 25-percent three-point shooter sank it. After an ill-advised foul on Gerald Green on the other end, allowing Green three free-throw attempts (and makes) to tie it again, Smith redeemed himself for the foul, and New York, by taking the rock to the rack, throwing up an awkward looking lefty runner off the glass from the right side for the ultimate game-winning basket with 1.2 seconds left. There would be no foul on Green's three-point miss at the horn. The Pistons escaped with a 110-108 win.
What stood out:
-- The Pistons shot 67-percent in the paint and had 68 points there. However, only 18 points came in the paint in the second half.
-- The Suns had 13 three-pointers and the Pistons had 3. That's a 30-point difference.
-- Drummond and Monroe played a combined 7 minutes in the fourth quarter.
Who stood out:
Smith was remarkable -- this was the Josh Smith Pistons fans can get down with. 25 points (on 16 shots), 11 rebounds, 5 assists and a block. You could tell on a handful of occasions he wanted to settle for a long two or three, but would think better of it. I could even sense the hesitation on the lone three-pointer he took in the fourth and he really had to take it to avoid a shot clock violation.
Jennings stood out in the first half, but in the second half he only had 2 assists and 3 turnovers. He reverted to taking bad shots and not looking for his teammates, and of course, the Pistons as a whole looked much worse because of it.
Drummond and Monroe, for the second game in a row, joined Smith with a double-double. Drummond had 13 and 13 with 5 blocks and Monroe had 20 and 12 in 28 minutes.
-- After the Suns tied the game for the first time in the fourth, 92-92, Smith snagged an offensive rebound and assisted KCP on a three. On the ensuing possession, Smith corralled a defensive rebound and then pushed it up the court to KCP again for an easy layup and a quick 5-point lead. Big response, even if there were still six minutes left and the Suns would fight back again.
-- Kyle Singler was not good, but somehow played 8 minutes in the fourth quarter. He did have 5 offensive rebounds in the game, but he also had 6 turnovers and only 6 points on 9 shots.
-- Will Bynum had 16 points off the bench, including 4 biggies in the final few minutes of the fourth.
-- The Pistons ended a five-game home losing streak. It was their first win at The Palace since Dec. 13.
-- Box Score
-- Pistons don't play again until Friday when they host the Suns' head coach's old team, the Utah Jazz.
-- Roll Call