Chevette to Corvette No. 29: The 1961-62 Detroit Pistons

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Facts

  • Actual record: 37-43
  • Pythagorean record: 36-44
  • Points scored per game: 115.4 (7th of 9)
  • Points allowed per game: 117.1 (3rd of 9)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coach: Dick McGuire

Playoffs

  • Lost NBA Western Division Finals (4-2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • Won NBA Western Division Semifinals (3-1) vs. Cincinnati Royals

Leaders

  • Points per game: Bailey Howell (19.9)
  • Rebounds per game: Bailey Howell (12.6)
  • Assists per game: Gene Shue (5.8)

Top player

Bailey Howell

Although his scoring average dipped some from the previous season, Howell was still Detroit’s top scorer and he also wrested the team rebounding lead from Walter Dukes, who saw his per-game average drop by eight per game from the previous season.

One of Howell’s greatest skills was his ability to get to the line. He averaged 7.7 free throw attempts per game in 61-62, but that was down from more than 10 per game in 60-61 and it cost Howell. Howell’s 19.9 points per game average in 61-62 was the only time in a four year period he dipped below 20 points per game.

Key transaction

Drafted Ray Scott with the fourth pick in the NBA Draft

Scott had a fine NBA career, mostly in Detroit, as a center/forward. He averaged 13.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game as a rookie, lasted five seasons with the Pistons and would later go on to coach the Pistons and at Eastern Michigan University. And, as Greg Eno reported in 2006, Scott became a lifetime part of the Detroit sports scene:

And Scott made it clear that once Detroit gets in your blood, you can’t get it out. Not that he’d want to, anyway.

“I came here in 1961 and y’all haven’t kicked me out yet,” Scott said with a typically big chortle. “But you (attendees of yesterday’s luncheon) might not know that I’ve been here that long because I played for the Pistons.” Then it was our turn for chortling.

“I am a Detroiter. Emanuel (Steward) and I practically grew up together as kids.”

Trend watch

Improving the defense

Despite scoring less, the Pistons became a more stout defensive team in Dick McGuire’s second year as coach. They went from seventh (of nine) in the league in points allowed to third, and that propelled them to a bit of postseason success.

Why this season ranks No. 29

For the first time in four years, the Pistons won a playoff series, beating Cincinnati in the Western Division semifinals. They stretched the Lakers to six games in the West finals and, at that point, that was the team’s best playoff showing since moving to Detroit in 1957.

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