CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Things were going so well for Paul Silas in the first half that coaches around the NBA may have been considering going on their own five-year hiatuses.
The Charlotte Bobcats had gone from stagnant on offense to collecting fast-break layups. New combinations worked perfectly. Bench warmers became key contributors. Confidence was in abundance.
Soon, reality set in that these Bobcats still have flaws. But in the end they did just enough to give Silas his first win as interim coach.
D.J. Augustin scored 27 points, Stephen Jackson added 23 and the new-look, uptempo Bobcats held on to beat the Detroit Pistons 105-100 on Monday night in their first game since Larry Brown was fired.
"I just think it was a good beginning," said Silas, who hadn't coached since getting fired by Cleveland in 2005. "I'm so happy we pulled this one out because if we hadn't it would have been a problem."
Inheriting a team that had lost four straight, the Bobcats built a 23-point lead before nearly wasting it all to a team with its own problems.
But Ben Gordon missed two tying 3-point attempts in the closing seconds before Tyrus Thomas' two free throws with 1 second left allowed Charlotte to survive despite 24 turnovers. Jackson had nine of them.
"It's going to take some time, but I like the effort tonight," Silas said. "If we continue to play with this kind of effort, it's unbelievable what we can do."
Charlie Villanueva scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting for the Pistons, who lost their second straight. It was a disjointed effort that included getting outrebounded 46-32 and never fully recovering from Charlotte's 24-2 run to start the second quarter.
Ben Wallace had just two rebounds in 16 minutes. Tracy McGrady had two points in 11 minutes, then declined to speak to reporters.
"I think this game of basketball is a game of adjustments," Villanueva said. "If things ain't going right, like the second quarter, you make some adjustments. You just can't keep with the same lineup that's out there."
Gordon and Tayshaun Prince added 17 points apiece and Chris Wilcox scored 15 for the Pistons, who lost in overtime to Chicago a night earlier.
"I thought the energy of the second group that we put in for the second half was great," coach John Kuester said. "They did a good job of getting us back in the game."
Thomas had 14 points and five of Charlotte's 13 blocks. Augustin, a frequent target of Brown's wrath, hit 10-of-15 shots and didn't commit a turnover.
"Coach Silas, he's a great motivator," Augustin said. "He got us up for the game and he made everybody relaxed. We didn't know what to expect tonight in our first game under him. We just played hard for him and hard for the fans."
Silas, the former Clippers, Hornets and Cavaliers coach, has been living in the Charlotte area and was assisting his neighbor coach 13- and 14-year-old kids. That changed when Charlotte owner Michael Jordan decided to make a change. The Bobcats had lost six of seven, with three of them by 30 points or more.
Silas immediately tried to push the pace, changing the shot clocks in practice from 24 to 14 seconds. He then tweaked with the rotation. Gerald Henderson started with Gerald Wallace (ankle) still out. He gave heavy minutes to DeSagana Diop and benched Kwame Brown.
"Any time you lose games by 30 points, something is wrong," Silas said before the game. "I didn't see them getting up and down the court. They didn't seem like they were really into the game."
While Jordan wasn't in his courtside seat, the Bobcats had perhaps their best stretch of the season in a dominant second quarter.
Diop, mostly dressed in a suit on game nights this season, blocked three shots and even hit a mid-range jumper. Little-used Matt Carroll contributed. Barely in-the-rotation Derrick Brown had an acrobatic alley-oop dunk.
The 67-year-old Silas, greeted warmly when he was introduced, was one of the most popular figures on the Charlotte Hornets in 2002 when the city shunned owner George Shinn as he prepared to move the team to New Orleans.
Silas now hopes to get Charlotte's second NBA team into the playoffs, too.
"We all feel like the season has started over for us," Jackson said. "I think everybody came to work at practice and we support each other on the court. That's how it should have been at the beginning of the season."
Notes: Silas said he left a phone message with Larry Brown but hasn't heard back. "It's hard. I've been there, getting fired," Silas said. "Do you want that team to do well? Quite honestly, no. I can understand, but I hope to talk to him soon." ... Kuester, an assistant under Brown on Detroit's 2004 NBA title team, did speak to his former boss shortly after he was let go last week. "He's hanging in there," Kuester said. "I'm very sad that it happened, because I always look forward to coming to Charlotte for a number of reasons. He was one of them."