When a team is going for its third straight championship, the month of June and the playoffs is its only focus, so the prospect of taking a night off here or there is certainly likely. And despite the Pistons looking intent on throwing the game away for most of the fourth quarter, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith woke up from nightmarish final stanzas to do just enough to help the Pistons (8-10) escape from AmericanAirlines Arena with a 107-97 win over the Miami Heat (14-4) they will not apologize for. Not that there weren’t plenty of warning signs or head-scratchers, as the Heat stormed back with a 23-6 run after once trailing by 18. Then Smith and Jennings made the kind of plays that Pistons fans will have to live with if they are to rebound from their slow start to be any kind of competitive in the Eastern Conference. With the Pistons up seven and reeling with 3:08 remaining, Smith stepped in front of a lazy Chris Bosh pass to finish with a dunk. A minute before that, Jennings made up for a seven-turnover night to finish up a terrible possession with a bail-out, 30-foot 3-pointer with Norris Cole draped all over him. With the Pistons running no semblance of offense to that point, Jennings called that play, “Pray to God.” Safe to say, it was answered after six straight bad possessions and Jennings was quite sober after the game, not overly impressed with putting a stop to the Heat’s 10-game winning streak. “To be honest, it’s frustrating but we gotta find ways,” said Jennings, who finished with 15 points and five assists. “The crowd was getting into it. I don’t think the team was able to hear me call the play. We got lucky tonight. They got great looks, threes that didn’t fall.” In what looked to be a carbon copy of their frustrating loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last Friday, the Pistons showed an inability to be organized down the stretch, with Cole hounding Jennings’ every move — to the point of unforced turnovers and the Heat content on letting Smith (7-for-21 shooting) fire away from the outside. “We gotta get the ball a little deeper, they’re so aggressive with their pick-and-roll defense, we’re reluctant to run a big guy (over),” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It ends up with a turnover so we ended up holding the ball longer than we wanted.” The Heat — playing without Dwyane Wade (knee) and minus a Herculean effort from two-time MVP LeBron James — relied on Cole, Michael Beasley (23 points) and Chris Andersen to bring them back after trailing for most of the night. James scored 14 of his 23 in the second quarter after the Heat fell behind 36-18. James’ length-of-the-court drive and dunk that saw not one man stop the ball pulled the champs to within three midway through the fourth, giving the feeling a similar outcome was expected. Then came Jennings’ triple and Smith’s dunk, which was also followed by Jennings stripping James on a fast break, effectively stabilizing things after neither had a night worth writing home about. It was reserve Kyle Singler breaking out from his season-long slumber to hit four 3-pointers and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope getting the Pistons off to a good start that made their more-heralded teammates’ struggles less pronounced. Singler scored 18 while Caldwell-Pope scored 15 as the Pistons shot over 51 percent from the field. Greg Monroe rebounded from a non-descript start of his own to finish with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Rodney Stuckey scored 16, his 11th straight game with at least 16 points. Jonas Jerebko made a positive contribution with seven points and three rebounds in 10 minutes.
Pistons repel Heat comeback to sink defending champs 107-97
Detroit News | Dec 4