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Pistons’ defense suffocates Bucks in victory

By Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press –

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Call it Knight and day.

And this night, it looked like Pistons guard Brandon Knight could have gone all day in Friday night’s 88-80 win over the Milwaukee Bucks that snapped a seven-game losing streak before 13,181 at the Palace.

Knight had been accused of hitting the so-called rookie wall this year, especially after he went scoreless in a loss at Milwaukee on Monday.

But if there was a wall, Knight busted clean through it like the Kool-Aid Man. He scored a career-high 26 points with no turnovers and got the best of his counterpart, Brandon Jennings.

“I don’t really pay much attention to walls or anything like that,” Knight said. “I just feel like you find a way to become energetic or find a way to psych yourself out you can try to fight through adversity and fatigue and stuff like that.”

Knight tried to downplay the matchup against Jennings, the Bucks’ most dangerous player with center Andrew Bogut out with a broken ankle.

“I didn’t take it as an individual matchup,” Knight said. “He’s a great player, he’s been playing at an All-Star level. I just wanted to make it as tough on him as I could and just play to the best of my ability.”

Jennings averaged 24 points in the previous two wins over the Pistons (5-20) this season. It would be a challenge to contain him, especially for a rookie in the middle of the longest season of his life.

“I think he really rose to the challenge,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “Brandon Jennings, the two games prior, you look at what Jennings averaged against us, almost 24 ½ points per game, shooting 57% and 7-for-12 from three, and Brandon right from the start really took the challenge.”

As they did Monday, the Pistons took advantage of Bogut’s absence and practically scored at will inside with 46 points inside the paint. Center Greg Monroe had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and forward Tayshaun Prince added 13 points and nine rebounds.

But unlike Monday, the Pistons found their outside shooting touch and backed that up with solid defense. The prime example was the job they did on Jennings, who scored 20 points for the Bucks (10-12) but only four in the second half. Walker Russell Jr. guarded Jennings in the fourth quarter and held him scoreless, an effort Frank called pivotal.

“Guys stepped up,” he said. “When you hold a team to 80 points, defensively, everyone who was on the floor contributes to that. And that deserves more credit than anything.”

After Monday’s 103-82 pasting by the Bucks, the Pistons flipped the script on them early in the first half. They raced to a 51-41 halftime lead and held Milwaukee to 15 points in the second quarter.

Knight was the main culprit, scoring 18 of his points in the first two quarters on 52.5% shooting while shooting 3-for-5 on three-pointers.

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