NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Detroit Pistons aren’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They’re just feeling better about themselves while riding their longest winning streak of the season and getting some key players back on the floor.
Greg Monroe had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Pistons won their season-high third straight game with a 99-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night.
“We have to keep this hunger,” said Monroe, who iced the game with a monster drive and jam with 2:27 to play. “We have to continue to play and give these efforts so the wins will come more often. But we have to continue to play like this.”
In winning for the seventh time in 27 games, the Pistons played good team basketball. They had 29 assists on 39 baskets, outrebounded New Jersey 41-36 and shot a season-high 53.4 percent from the field.
“We’re gaining more confidence in each other,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said after his team won for only the second time on the road this season and snapped a seven-game slide away from the Motor City.
The Pistons are also getting some depth.
Jonas Jerebko, who is rounding into form after missing last season with an Achilles tendon injury, added 16 points. Tayshaun Prince had 15 and Ben Gordon, playing for the first time in 11 games, added 14 points for Detroit, which almost blew an 18-point second-half lead.
Prince said it was great to see Gordon back on the floor and Will Bynum dressed, even though he didn’t play.
“It put a smile on everybody’s face,” Prince said. “When we saw those guys in their warmups, even if they didn’t play, guys were more ready to play.”
Deron Williams scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nets, who have lost four in a row and nine times in 12 home games. Jordan Farmar added 22 off the bench and Kris Humphries had a game-high 16 rebounds.
“We lost,” said Williams, who was 10 of 21 from the field. “That’s about it. It’s another loss at home. We’ve been struggling here all season, trying to find our shots and rhythm. It’s hard to win when you are shooting in the 30-percent range.”
A four-point play by Williams got New Jersey within 78-77, but Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey and Monroe scored to push the lead to eight.
The Nets made one more run as Williams sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a fadeaway jumper by Stuckey to narrow the Pistons’ lead to 86-83 with 5:18 to play.
After Monroe missed a jumper and Farmar turned the ball over, Brandon Knight hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 89-83. The Nets could get no closer as Williams missed his next two shots and Farmar misfired on a 3-pointer.
Two free throws by Prince and a monster drive and dunk from the foul line by Monroe ended the contest.
Gordon, who was out with a sore left shoulder, came back and was in form, scoring eight points in a 22-7 spurt that gave the Pistons a 44-31 lead late in the second quarter. The lead was 12 at the half and it grew to 18 points early in the third quarter when Stuckey hit a jumper to cap a 6-0 run to start the second half.
The Pistons lead was still 15 points with 5:35 to go in the third quarter when Williams scored seven straight points in a 14-6 burst to close the gap to seven points. New Jersey kept coming at the start of the fourth quarter with Williams hitting six of 10 shots, including four of his six — and career high-tying — 3-pointers.
“This was a team that had more energy than us and played with a lot more enthusiasm,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “Again, we have to generate more energy in this building. We have to generate more energy at home and we just didn’t have it tonight.”
Notes: The teams will play again Friday in Detroit, their third game in 10 days. … Monroe, Knight and Nets rookie MarShon Brooks, who is sidelined with a toe injury, were among 18 players chosen for the Rising Stars Challenge to be held during All-Star weekend in Orlando. … Knight, who broke his nose in the first quarter against New Orleans and did not return, played with a face shield. … Nets backup C Johan Petro almost was ejected in the second quarter. He was called for a flagrant 2 on a block on Jerebko, but the officials reviewed the play and changed it to flagrant 1. Humphries and Monroe exchanged blocks on dunk attempts on consecutive plays.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)