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Jennings makes winning debut for Pistons

The SportsXchange

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Point guard Brandon Jennings was unveiled and unmasked on Sunday. Once he got rolling, the Boston Celtics became unhinged.

Jennings, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Milwaukee during the summer, had 14 points, four assists and four steals in his Detroit Pistons debut, helping his new team to a 87-77 victory over the winless Celtics at The Palace.

His debut was delayed by two games because of a partially fractured jaw. He wore a protective mask most of the way but contributed eight points, three assists and three steals in the fourth quarter after discarding the device.

"At the beginning, I was a little shocked," Jennings said. "My legs were a little shocked, but once I got rid of the mask, I was like, 'It's time to play now.' It was uncomfortable. I'm not used to playing with something on my face and it was my decision to take it off."

Coach Mo Cheeks was just glad to get his point guard back. Jennings came off the bench but played 31 minutes.

"He brings a little electricity to the game with the playmaking ability he has and the ability to make shots," Cheeks said. "He changed the game and he changes our makeup."

Detroit's frontcourt trio of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe was equally as effective with 15 points apiece and a combined 29 rebounds.

"I've been preaching from the beginning, we've got a great front line," Jennings said. "It's important we get those guys the ball."

Rookie Kelly Olynyk led Boston (0-3) with 15 points. Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford had 13 apiece.

Boston erased a 15-point, second-half deficit but went scoreless in the last 2:14.

It was a sloppy affair, with the teams combining for 45 turnovers, including 24 by the Celtics.

"We just have to get better," Olynyk said. "They capitalized on their chances. They're big and strong. Those bigs they have are really, really good. We cut it close a couple of times, but that's not good enough when you play in this league."

The Pistons (2-1) led by 15 early in the third quarter, but the Celtics surged ahead with 13 straight points during an outburst that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Crawford had five points and assisted on Bradley's 3-pointer that tied it at 63. Jared Sullinger then made two free throws to give Boston just its second lead of the game.

Jennings ended the Pistons' drought with a layup, then fed Kyle Singler for a three-point play to put Detroit back on top 68-65 with 9:16 remaining. Jennings finished Detroit's 10-0 run with a 3-pointer to make it 73-65.

Boston wasn't through. A 10-2 run, capped by a Bradley jumper, pulled the Celtics to 79-77. But the Pistons answered with four free throws and a Smith layup to hang on.

"Those groups were doing a great job," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of his second-half rotations. "They gave us a chance to win and then we turned it over because we were moving too fast."

Drummond dunks accounted for Detroit's first three baskets, and the Pistons went on to lead most of the first half.

Jennings made his first appearance with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter. He quickly made an impact with a steal and fast-break layup.

Jennings had another fast-break layup to start the second quarter after a Drummond block. Drummond also played a key role during Detroit's 12-2 run that gave it a 43-30 lead. Drummond had a layup and a dunk before Smith finished the outburst with another layup.

Jennings' jumper in the lane allowed the Pistons to take a 45-35 lead into the locker room.

NOTES: Detroit had won 13 of its last 17 home games against Boston. ... The Pistons wore their alternate Motor City uniforms for the first time. They will wear the uniforms for every Sunday home game this season. ... Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who tore the ACL in his right knee in January, has increased the tempo of his workouts, but there is still no timetable for his return. "There's no need to rush him back and him not be fully healthy and fully healed," Stevens said. "It's a matter of gaining strength in that leg. He's itching to play, let's put it that way." ... Detroit's first-round pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, will see his playing time diminish with the return of Jennings. "It's tough to play five guards," coach Mo Cheeks said. "It wouldn't be right, it wouldn't make a lot of sense." ... Boston plays at Memphis on Monday, completing the first of 20 back-to-back games this season.
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