Without Cheeks, Detroit wins bigWith interim coach John Loyer hoarsely shouting instructions, Brandon Jennings and the Detroit Pistons ran away from the San Antonio Spurs in the third quarter.
Jennings finished with 21 points, and the Pistons beat San Antonio 109-100 on Monday night in Loyer’s first game at the helm.
Detroit abruptly fired Maurice Cheeks on Sunday after only 50 games as coach, but although they’ve been unimpressive for the most part this season, the Pistons have played better lately. The comfortable win over the Spurs was Detroit’s fifth in seven games.
“I told them it was going to be an emotional day,” Loyer said. “I told them I thought we can play, collectively, for longer periods of time better than we have.”
Rodney Stuckey scored 20 points for the Pistons, and Greg Monroe added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Marco Belinelli led the Spurs with 20 points.
Detroit pulled even with Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the Pistons have shown flashes recently of the potential they thought they’d have this season. After signing Josh Smith and trading for Jennings in the offseason, Detroit is barely ahead of last season’s pace in terms of wins and losses.
Jennings has been terrific lately, though. After scoring 35 points with 12 assists Saturday against Denver, he orchestrated another strong offensive effort Monday.
San Antonio, meanwhile, turned the ball over eight times in the third quarter, when Detroit pushed its lead from 11 to 20. The Spurs finished with 19 turnovers, giving the Pistons all the help they would need.
“We lost the game because we probably played the worst defense we’ve played all season, especially in the first half,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We didn’t bring it mentally or physically, and the Pistons did.”
Loyer’s sideline demeanor was quite a change from Cheeks’ more calm approach. At one point, Loyer came all the way across midcourt to give instructions as the Pistons were trying to hold on.
“They’re both two different coaches,” Jennings said. “One is loud, the other one is kind of laid back. They’re both great guys - especially Cheeks. He’s like a father figure to me, so he’s definitely going to be missed. But this is the NBA, so I know how that goes.”
The Pistons went on a 12-2 run in the third to take a 73-52 lead, then added a few more highlights later in that quarter. Smith threw down a one-handed dunk after a turnover by San Antonio, and Jennings made a layup after Detroit’s Andre Drummond blocked Aron Baynes’s shot emphatically off the glass.