By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — 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.
MINNEAPOLIS — Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and the surging Houston Rockets used a fourth-quarter push to hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves for their sixth consecutive victory.
Chandler Parsons had 20 points and James Harden scored 19 for the Rockets, who have won six straight for the first time since taking seven in a row from Jan. 13-23, 2012.
Back after missing one game with a bruised left quadriceps, Kevin Love led Minnesota with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Chase Budinger had 15 points for the Timberwolves, who have lost four straight and six of seven.
INDIANAPOLIS — David West scored 25 points and Roy Hibbert added 14 as the Indiana Pacers routed the short-handed Denver Nuggets.
Indiana snapped a five-game skid in the series, beating the Nuggets for the first time since a 31-point blowout in November 2010. The Pacers (40-11) still have the NBA’s best record, the league’s best home record (25-2) and now lead two-time defending champion Miami by four games in the Eastern Conference.
Wilson Chandler scored 17 points to lead the Nuggets (24-26), who have lost three straight. They played without several injured players, including Andre Miller, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson.
TORONTO — Kyle Lowry had 19 points and 12 assists, Patrick Patterson scored a season-high 22 and the Toronto Raptors beat the New Orleans Pelicans for their third straight victory.
DeMar DeRozan also had 22 points, Terrence Ross added 14 and Tyler Hansbrough scored 12 for Toronto, which has won five consecutive meetings and seven of eight against New Orleans. The first-place Raptors moved three games ahead of Brooklyn in the Atlantic Division by winning for the ninth time in 11 home games.
Tyreke Evans had 23 points and 10 assists, and Anthony Davis scored 19 for the Pelicans, who lost their second straight and have dropped four consecutive games in Toronto.
MILWAUKEE — Jeff Green scored 29 points and Kelly Olynyk added 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Boston Celtics pulled away from the Milwaukee Bucks in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics used a 12-4 run to start the final quarter to break open what had been a tight game. Green had seven points during the spurt and 11 overall in the quarter, while Olynyk scored 10 after Boston entered the fourth clinging to a 70-68 lead.
Jared Sullinger added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Boston.
Brandon Knight had 22 points for Milwaukee, which also got 17 points from Gary Neal and 16 points from John Henson before he left late in the game with an ankle injury.