After closing out the first half down seven points to the Thunder, the Pistons found a special spark in the third quarter that not only changed the tempo for Detroit, it may have forced the hand of Lawrence Frank. Andre Drummond finally joined Greg Monroe for meaningful minutes up front, and it was immediately clear that Detroit fans were seeing their frontcourt of the future.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, Greg Monroe caught the ball in the high post and fed a cutting Andre Drummond for an easy layup at the basket. After taking a charge from Serge Ibaka on the following possession, Monroe looked for Drummond for another quick, easy basket, and fed him his second layup on as many trips down the court. Following another stop, an adjusting Thunder defense closed in on Drummond, and Monroe fed Brandon Knight the ball who dished it out to Tayshaun Prince for a perfect three point shot.
In 90 seconds of play, fans forgot about the five losses that came before it. After Kyle Singler came in to join the party, it only got better from there. Here are some key take-aways:
- After a franchise-high 11 assists from a center, Greg Monroe was clearly used as a point man frequently tonight. After a guard would bring the ball up the court, the possession wasn't moved to Tayshaun Prince like it had been in years past. Monroe would receive the ball in the high post and direct traffic, either opening up a pick-and-roll with a guard or handing the ball off to a rotating wing. It was effective, and it was beautiful.
- Monroe finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 (!) blocks, the latter of which all happened in the first quarter. Over the last three games, he's averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks.
- Once again, Kyle Singler showed the value of a four-year college player who spent a year in Europe before coming to the NBA. He's mistake free, shows great form and hustles on both ends of the court. Early in the 4th quarter, Knight missed a jumper that Monroe rebounded but his tip fell short. Singler stepped in and grabbed the offensive board in heavy traffic and filled the layup. Singler had a reputation for finesse in college, but this is one of the many moments where he was not afraid to do dirty work.
- Andre Drummond was beautiful. He was 4-4 in the second quarter alone, and finished the game scoring 22 points on 10 shots with 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and six free throws made on nine attempts. Watching he and Monroe side-by-side may have been the most exciting minutes of Detroit Basketball played since... I don't know, some time before November 3rd of 2008? Okay, I've been drinking, but still.
- Andre Drummond became the youngest Detroit Piston in franchise history to break 20 points. The closest in age was Amir Johnson, who scored but did not break 20 points during his rookie season. While other rookies may have passed Drummond's 22 points, no Detroit Piston has ever done it at a younger age. There's a whole lot to look forward to, isn't there.
- Both Stuckey and Knight played much better than they have so far this season, although their collective performance was flawed. Together, they only shot 37.5% from the field, but they also combined for 12 assists and only 3 turnovers. They might show greater efficiency in passing the more Monroe is leaned upon to manage distribution from the high post.
- Oh yeah, the Thunder played too. Serge Ibaka had a career-high 25 points. It also took him 15 more minutes and 3 more shots to get to 25 than it took Drummond to get to 22, so put that in your bong and blaze it, Bobcat Goldthwait. I don't know what that means either. Again, drinking.
If there ever was a moral victory, it was tonight. The Pistons started the first half looking like they had for the 5 games that came before tonight. Then head coach Lawrence Frank finally played Monroe and Drummond together in the frontcourt for 8 or so minutes that felt like an eternity. It was the most exciting moment Pistons fans could have seen so far this season, and it delivered a mandate to Lawrence Frank. Monroe and Drummond must be played together and for meaningful burn on a night-in, night-out basis. The hard numbers from DBB's own Brian Packey:
Detroit outscored Oklahoma City 16-10 when it was Knight/Stuckey(and then English)/Prince( and then Singler)/Monroe/Drummond. When Monroe and Drummond were on the court together regardless of the backcourt, they led OKC 17-15 in a brief look at the future.
The Detroit Pistons are now 0-6, but personally, I had more fun watching this loss than I've had watching a Pistons game in what might be years. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond-- thank you. More of this please, young fellas!