For the first time since Brandon Jennings went out with a torn left Achilles, the Detroit Pistons won. Thankfully, they had Josh Smith's help.
The Pistons sprinted out to an early lead, looking like a different team than the one that has traditionally started out lackluster and currently in a four game rut. They finished the first half up by 13 points and eventually ran the lead up to 21 points.
But Houston wasn't going to make it easy.
Behind James Harden and some tough defense in the second half, the Rockets surged back to make it a four point game. The Pistons responded well and were able to close it out.
The Pistons were led in equal parts by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Greg Monroe, and D.J. Augustin.
KCP had 28 points including a whopping 6 three pointers, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocked shots - all the while playing terrific defense on MVP frontrunner James Harden. It was the second highest point total of his career, but it was likely his very best game.
Monroe continued his streak of consistently excellent basketball, putting up 19 points on just 12 shots, 12 rebounds, and 2 assists, while also offering some nice defensive play. Augustin offered 28 points, along with 12 assists and 2 steals.
Pistons opened the game strong offensively, hitting 51 percent of their shots including 6-13 on three pointers. But hey, you'll never guess how Josh Smith played.
Houston had a tough time, thanks to the large role played by one Josh Smith. You might remember him. He led the team in shot attempts, despite shooting only 2-8. You might remember that.
Smith had a rough night. He was booed by Pistons fans every time he touched the ball and was a key catalyst to the Pistons lead. He finished up his night early in the third quarter with 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, 2 blocks, and 3-11 shooting. It was, as Keith Langlois put it, a very Josh Smith line.
Augustin picked up the baton from Brandon Jennings in leading the offense out of halftime with a killer third quarter, scoring 13 points with perfect shooting - 5-5 from the field, 1-1 from three, and 2-2 on free throws. He dished out 5 assists while he was at it.
But after seemingly struggling with KCP defense and scoring just 5 points in the first half, James Harden took over. Even though he looked to take a rough hit to the knee, in the second half Harden scored 21 points, assisted 5 shots, grabbed 6 rebounds, had 2 steals and a block.
It was him and Donatas (Donuts) Motiejunas that turned it into a game. Donuts had himself a hell of a game in his own right, and he hit 15 of his 21 points in the second half - and, like D.J., he didn't miss a shot, going 7-7 from the field with a three pointer.
The Pistons beat the Rockets in trips to the line 35 to 19, so Houston fans/leadership was probably never thrilled with the way the game was called. But they really didn't like it down the stretch.
Houston had clawed to within 6 points with under 3 minutes left to go when Anthony Tolliver drew an interesting loose ball foul call on Trevor Ariza that sent him to the line after a Pistons miss. With Houston doing all they could to come back and Ariza denying the in-bound pass, Ariza was called for another foul against Augustin.
Except this one went for a dead-ball foul, which meant that the Pistons would get the ball after a free throw, which D.J. hit. With Houston pressing, Pistons got away with a very near backcourt violation to set up Tolliver up for a layup that could be counted with a foul. Kevin McHale voiced his dissatisfaction with the officials' performance and received a technical foul, and the Pistons coasted to a win.
From here, the Pistons play a key stretch for the schedule for their playoff considerations. Next up is the seven seed Miami Heat at the Palace on Tuesday. Then come the Pacers in Indianapolis, the Nuggets and Timberwolves at home, and eight seed Hornets in Charlotte.
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