By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – Brandon Jennings scored 21 points, and the Detroit Pistons beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-100 on Monday night in John Loyer’s first game as interim coach.
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.
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.
With Loyer – an assistant under Cheeks – hoarsely shouting defensive instructions from the sideline, the Pistons went on a 12-2 run in the third to take a 73-52 lead.
There were a few other highlights later in the period, too. 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’ shot emphatically off the glass.
After Jennings missed from the perimeter, he stole the ball near midcourt and went in for a three-point play to make it 84-62.
San Antonio is in the midst of a nine-game road swing. Belinelli was back after dealing with back spasms, but the Spurs were without Manu Ginobili (left hamstring) and Kawhi Leonard (right hand).
The Pistons went on a 15-4 run in the second quarter, capped by a 3-pointer by Jennings that put them ahead 57-45.
NOTES: The Pistons have won five straight at home after starting 7-15 at The Palace. … After Cheeks’ firing, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was asked about the key to his longevity with the Spurs. “I have information on everybody,” he joked. “And I’ve threatened everybody I’ll let it out unless they keep me as long as I want to stay.” … Ginobili has joined the Spurs on this road trip, but he’s not expected to play until after the All-Star break.
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