AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Brandon Jennings has looked like an entirely different player over the last 10 days. Not coincidentally, the Detroit Pistons look like an entirely different team.
Jennings poured in a season-high 35 points and the Pistons collected their fifth straight victory by defeating the Sacramento Kings 114-95 on Sunday at The Palace. Jennings, Detroit’s point guard, reached the 25-point mark for the third time in four games.
The Pistons (10-23) doubled their win total after dropping 23 of their first 28 games. They have won by an average of 18.2 points during the streak and scored at a 108.2 point clip with Jennings engineering the attack. Jennings previously shared playmaking duties with forward Josh Smith, who was released just before the streak began.
“The whole team looks comfortable,” said Jennings, who added seven assists. “We’re sharing the ball and everybody is making plays out there. They made a run, they were down four and then we picked it up on the defensive end and took off with it.”
Jennings only shot two free throws but made 14-of-21 field goal attempts, including a 5-of-8 performance on 3-point tries. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was even more impressed with Jennings’ enthusiasm and leadership.
“I just love not only the way he’s playing, I love his whole attitude,” Van Gundy said. “Even when he’s on the bench, he’s encouraging guys. He’s into the game, he’s into the team. He’s trying a lot harder on the defensive end of the floor, it’s not just his offense now. Before, he wasn’t giving us much (defensively). The last five games, he’s totally transformed in almost everything.”
The Pistons will need more stellar outings from Jennings this week during a difficult stretch of four games in five nights that begins Tuesday on the road against defending champion San Antonio and red-hot Dallas.
“We’re certainly getting better,” Van Gundy said. “Now, we’re into probably the toughest stretch of the year. There’s 11 teams playing .600 or better and we play four of them in our next five games, three on the road. It’s tough but it also makes a win like today and the last few even more crucial to have.”
Detroit center Andre Drummond notched his 18th double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Power forward Greg Monroe supplied 14 points and 11 rebounds and guard Jodie Meeks had 13 points as the Pistons shot 49.5 percent from the field.
Center DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings (14-20) with 18 points and 15 rebounds but shot 5-for-17 from the field. Point guard Darren Collison added 17 points and six assists while forwards Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams chipped in 12 points apiece.
Sacramento’s 9-5 start is a distant memory. The Kings are 3-7 under Tyrone Corbin, their second coach this season.
“We’re not the team we were,” Cousins said. “It’s clear. We’re not the same team. We can’t continue to make excuses. Regardless who the man is on the bench, we’re the ones out there playing. We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves.”
Jennings capped off his 15-point quarter in the third with a 3-pointer in the final second, allowing the Pistons to carry an 84-78 lead into the fourth.
Detroit small forward Caron Butler fired in a 19-footer and a 3-pointer midway through the final quarter to nudge its lead to 12, 97-85. Jennings hit his fourth 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining to make it 105-91. His final 3-pointer with 1:39 left allowed him to surpass his previous season high of 32 points, set against Washington on Nov. 12.
“When he’s making shots like he was tonight, you have to make sure you pay attention to the pick-and-roll with him and Drummond,” Corbin said. “He made some 3-point shots early and felt good about his shots.”
NOTES: Kings PG Ramon Sessions missed his sixth consecutive game with a lower back strain. SF Omar Casspi (knee contusion) was also inactive. … Detroit won the last four meetings, including a 95-90 win at Sacramento on Dec. 13. … Detroit’s 63 3-pointers in its previous five games was a club record. … Sacramento lost six of its first nine games under coach Tyrone Corbin, who replaced Michael Malone on Dec. 15. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said the change was an eye opener. “We’re all pretty surprised by the move,” he said. “Michael had them playing real well and then DeMarcus (Cousins) got sick and they struggled. It was an interesting move.” … Pistons SG Jodie Meeks was averaging 17.8 points over his last five games but Van Gundy has no plans to start him ahead of G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “I don’t think anything’s final but there’s certainly no reason now to make any change,” he said.
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