Pistons finally play like a true team, win big over Suns

I didn’t plan to make player grades the sole component of so many game reviews this season, but for the most part, once I analyzed each player individually, I had nothing left to add about that game.

The Pistons haven’t been a team as much as they’d been a collection of players.

Guys like Corey Maggette, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell and Will Bynum seem to be just taking up space until the Pistons dump them this summer. And players who appear integral to the franchise’s futures – Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond – barely play together. Both groups constantly share the court, and there’s no point drawing meaningful conclusions about how they play together.

It’s worth watching the veterans to assess their trade value, and it’s worth watching the young players to track their development. But how the Pistons worked together? Who cares. Half will be gone soon, and the other half will – hopefully – improve a great deal before it’s important to worry about fit.

Tonight, though, the Pistons played like a team. They had 28 assists. Eight players scored at least eight points. Everyone who played more than five minutes was at least +10.

It all added up to a 117-77 victory over the Phoenix Suns – the Pistons’ first 40-point win since 2007.

The Suns, playing their third game in four nights in three different road cities, certainly helped the cause. They trailed the final 34 minutes and by at least 15 points the final 21 minutes. Somewhere along the way, Phoenix gave up and let the Pistons pad their numbers.

But make no mistake, it got that way only  because the Pistons played like a team while the game was in reach. The jumbled mess finally came together, and it did in a big way. For one night at least, all the parts fit.

Afterward, the Pistons huddled at midcourt as Corey Maggette spoke. I don’t know what he said, but it probably involved some of those clichés that all teams use – emphasizing the value of teamwork, unselfishness and belief in each other.

Tonight, those words aren’t a plea. They’re reality.

Phoenix Suns 77 Final
Recap | Box Score
117 Detroit Pistons
Jason Maxiell, PF 22 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | +12

Steadily efficient.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 30 MIN | 3-5 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | +23

Using assist-to-shot ratio, admittedly a crude measure, Prince had only one game this unselfish last season.

Kyle Singler, SF 32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +19

Who would have thought Singler could score 12 points in what feels like an off game for him?

Greg Monroe, C 28 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | +15

The ball didn’t go through Monroe as much as usual, which means it went through him far less than I’d usually like. But with four turnovers, Monroe wasn’t sharp, and there were better options tonight. Still, he had a fine game overall.

Brandon Knight, PG 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 6-7 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 19 PTS | +24

I don’t think Knight has turned a corner yet, but here’s another excellent game to support the theory that he has. I don’t know whether I was more impressed with his 3-of-3 3-point shooting or 6-of-7 free-throw shooting. Six assists and three turnovers, in this context, is definitely acceptable.

Charlie Villanueva, PF 21 MIN | 7-8 FG | 1-3 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | +32

There have been plenty of reasons to not like Villanueva as a player, but you must give him credit for this: When his number was called, he was ready. Since replacing Jonas Jerebko in the rotation, Villanueva has played exceptionally well. He didn’t need to play through rust, and he deserves credit for his preparation.

Austin Daye, PF 7 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +11

The only Piston to play who didn’t make a noticeable positive impact tonight.

Corey Maggette, SF 15 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +11

Quiet but efficient.

Andre Drummond, C 25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +21

Drummond dunked on a couple alley-oops, but I’d like to point out the one from Rodney Stuckey to star the second quarter. Sure, the dunk was spectacular, but don’t miss that Drummond set a great screen to create the play. Add his usual rebounding and rim protection, and this was a nice night for him.

Will Bynum, PG 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS | +10

Four assists with a usage rate of zero? Oh, my. That had happened only once in each of the last three seasons. Plus, this was even more assists per minute than Bynum’s 20-assist game.

Rodney Stuckey, PG 25 MIN | 4-8 FG | 10-11 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS | +22

Look at all those free throws! Add the passing and rebounding Stuckey has shown in past seasons, and I think he’s found the his best role – at least for now.

Kim English, SG 5 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | 0

Made his only 3-point attempt, a reminder that English could still serve a role on this team.

Jonas Jerebko, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION

Didn’t play at all in a 40-point win, and at least one beat writer think Jerebko has shown "displeasure" with his demotion (make that two). I’m not reading too much into this, but Jerebko didn’t appear too happy during the post-game huddle, either. I’ll let you – if my perception is even accurate – decide whether that’s a disruptive problem or just his competitive nature. It is curious that he didn’t play at all tonight.

Tags: Andre Drummond Austin Daye Brandon Knight Charlie Villanueva Corey Maggette Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell Jonas Jerebko Kim English Kyle Singler Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Will Bynum

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