The Pistons Bandwagon is Getting Crowded

It was an old school score and an old school game. No boys allowed. Friday night in Chicago. Though it wasn’t the Chicago Stadium that hosted the Pistons and Bulls of the ’80’s, it was still rocking in the United Center and it was still agony in the United Center when the Bulls came up short to the delight of the crew from Detroit.

Every team has to have a signature win, and for the Pistons, this one was it.

Regulation was not good enough. The 1st overtime was not good enough. The second overtime solved nothing. The third overtime ended with a tie score. It was a four overtime victory that left the Pistons exhausted but victorious thanks to Andre Drummond’s 33 points, 21 rebounds and 3 steals. When it was all said and done, the Pistons had 64 rebounds, 28 assists and 46 free throws, not to mention a grueling, leg battering 68 game minutes.

The Pistons checked all the boxes, answered all the skeptics questions about their grit and desire and ability to compete in the East. It’s been said that the biggest part of success is just showing up. The Pistons showed up big time.

It’s fitting that their biggest win of the season was on the road and against the Bulls. The Bulls game kicked off a tough road trip with Miami and Atlanta up next. In Chicago, the fab five the Pistons rely on delivered big.

Marcus Morris played 57 minutes and had 20 points. Ersan Ilyasova played 53 minutes and had 18 points. Andre Drummond played 54 minutes and had 33 points and 21 rebounds. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played 48 minutes and had 17 points; some big three’s late in overtimes. Reggie Jackson played 49 minutes and had 31 points and 13 assists.

It was just one game.

The Pistons are still hovering around the 8th seed. They have their issues. They don’t shoot the ball very well (27th). They take a lot of three’s but don’t have a high percentage (32%). They are the worst free throw shooting team in the league and it’s not all on Drummond. Last night, Morris missed three free throws. Ilyasova missed three free throws. Of course, Drummond missed five free throws. Caldwell-Pope missed three free throws. Reggie Jackson missed three of his own, some late that set up the overtime situation.

The Pistons don’t move the ball, they rank 28th in assists. Reggie Jackson iso’s a lot, dribbling in the lane. The rest of the team is dependent on getting open perimeter looks. The Pistons don’t have a lot of drivers. They don’t protect the rim either. No one besides Drummond averages a block a game.

Their biggest challenge, given their specific weaknesses, is improving their consistency with what they do well which is rebound the ball, create steals and finish on the break. And allowing Drummond to dominate and demoralize his opponents.

The same toughness and grit and execution and rising above adverse circumstance that was present in Chicago last night, the Pistons have to duplicate in Miami and in Atlanta the next two games.

Stan Van Gundy has done the near impossible in two years. He got rid of the dead weight. He made a couple of brilliant acquisitions. He added an offensive system that works to everyones strengths. The consequence is a young team that has developed confidence playing in a difficult league. They represent well the self-image of Detroit as stubborn and persistent.

Winning does things to the memory. It makes you forget the decade of hit and misses and Detroit basketball failure. The Bulls stars, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, had to deliver their “A” game to beat the Pistons and they couldn’t. That is a turning point for the franchise and this young crew. Teams have to match up against them. Teams have to worry about their ability to score, defend, rebound, rise above adversity and execute.

Detroit is a tough town. The Pistons are a tough team.

photo via llananba