With Silas using new combinations and forcing the pace after replacing the fired Larry Brown last week, the Bobcats built a 23-point lead and then nearly wasted it all.
Ben Gordon missed two tying 3-point attempts in the closing seconds before Tyrus Thomas' two free throws with 1 second left finally put it away for the Bobcats, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
Charlie Villanueva scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting for the Pistons, who lost their second straight.
The Bobcats made Silas sweat out the victory in his first game on the bench since he was fired by Cleveland more than five years ago. Silas, a former Clippers, Hornets and Cavaliers coach who had been living in the Charlotte area, had been assisting his neighbor coach 13- and 14-year-old kids when owner Michael Jordan called last week.
The Pistons, seemingly out of it after Charlotte's dominant second quarter, got within 101-100 on Chris Wilcox's two free throws with 1:01 left. Thomas responded with a putback of Augustin's missed layup and a block of Will Bynum's layup on the next two possessions.
Augustin then let the shot clock run down too far before feeding Boris Diaw for a forced 3-pointer that didn't hit the rim with 14 seconds left.
Gordon missed a straightaway 3-pointer before Thomas failed to put it away with two misses at the free throw line. Gordon got another look from the right wing, but it bounced out before Thomas hit two straight at the line.
Augustin hit 10-of-15 shots and didn't commit a turnover after often being a target of the demanding Brown. Jackson added nine rebounds and nearly had a dubious triple-double thanks to nine turnovers.
Thomas added 14 points and five blocks as Charlotte won despite playing again without Gerald Wallace (ankle).
Gordon and Tayshaun Prince added 17 points apiece and Wilcox scored 15 for the Pistons, who were outrebounded 46-32.
While the Bobcats hadn't played in nearly a week, the Pistons were coming off an overtime loss to Chicago a night earlier and came out sluggish against a team with a renewed focus.
Jordan dismissed Brown on Wednesday, a night after a loss to Oklahoma City left Brown trashing his players and himself again. The Bobcats entered Monday's game having lost six of seven, with three of the losses 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, giving heavy minutes to DeSagana Diop and benching 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 for whatever reason."
While Jordan wasn't in his courtside seat, the Bobcats showed success unseen in weeks with odd combinations.
Diop, mostly dressed in a suit on game nights this season, was blocking three shots and even hitting a mid-range jumper. Little-used Matt Carroll contributed. Barely-in-the-rotation Derrick Brown had an acrobatic alley-oop dunk.
It all came in a 24-2 run to start the second quarter that snapped a tie and had the small crowd on its feet.
Silas, greeted warmly when he was introduced, was one of the most popular figures on the Hornets when the city shunned owner George Shinn as he prepared to move the team to New Orleans.
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." ... Kuester picked up a fourth-quarter technical foul.
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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 27: D.J. Augustin #14 of the Charlotte Bobcats lays it up against the Detroit Pistons on...