Pistons start strong, hold on late for back-to-back wins over first place teams

In the first game of a five-game homestand on Friday, the Pistons surprisingly (maybe shockingly) beat the Atlantic Division leading and defending NBA champion Miami Heat. In the second game o f the homestand on Sunday, Detroit beat the Milwaukee Bucks, who lead the Central Division.

Beating the Bucks — a fringe playoff contender at best in the eyes of most before the season started — is certainly less impressive in itself than beating the Heat. But when you combine the two results, it’s a nice accomplishment in a season that has been had sparse moments that can be described as ‘accomplishments.’ The Pistons, as a lot of young teams do, could’ve very easily come into this game a little too overconfident after such a great performance against the defending champs on Friday. The Pistons — as they’ve done so many times previously this season — could’ve very easily folded when a better team came back in the second half and erased a double digit lead. They didn’t do either of those things, and even if excuses can be made for the Bucks — they were playing the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Heat last night, the Pistons are slowly but surely showing a bit of progress. Talk of ‘turning corners’ or other clichés is probably premature. It’s likely the Pistons are not as good as they’ve looked the last two games. But it’s also likely they’re not as bad as they looked much of the early part of the season.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying, despite more than 40 percent of the season being over, it’s still really hard to conclude what this team is. They’re certainly not a playoff team. But they’re also not one of the dregs of the league either. And with significant young talent with immense upside — specifically Andre Drummond, but also Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight — they’re not just a run of the mill bad team either. Most run of the mill bad teams don’t have a potential franchise player like Drummond is, should he continue developing at his advanced rate.

Tonight’s game didn’t change anything about how bad the Pistons have been most of this season, but steadily, if they continue playing as competitively as they have over the last week, they’re starting to rebuild some of the hope that was lost with their horrid start.

Milwaukee Bucks 94 FinalRecap | Box Score 96 Detroit Pistons
Jason Maxiell, PF 26 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | +5Jason Maxiell hadn’t reached double figures in rebounding since Dec. 10 and he picked up just his second double-double of the season. He and Greg Monroe helped make everyone in Milwaukee’s frontcourt not named Ersan Ilyasova a non-factor.
Tayshaun Prince, SF 35 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -2Prince reached 20 points in a game for the second time this season, but it was his offense down the stretch that helped win this game. As much as most fans have celebrated the fact that Prince in the Isolayshaun (copyright Detroit Bad Boys) offense has been used in Moderayshaun (copyright Patrick Hayes) this season, he’s still probably the most reliable Piston to go to in an iso situation, either facing up or posting up. He rarely turns it over and he usually gets at least a decent look. Monta Ellis gave the Bucks their first lead of the game with 1:06 left when he hit a jumper to put the Bucks up 96-94. The Pistons went to Prince on two straight possessions. He got inside and made a short jumper to tie it with 50 seconds left, then after a stop, he drew a foul and made the game-winning free throws with 10 seconds left.
Kyle Singler, SF 31 MIN | 2-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +5Even when he plays bad, Singler always does enough to justify staying on the court. Tonight, he picked up six rebounds, three steals and a block. He also doesn’t get enough credit for how well he moves without the basketball — in fact, he might be the team’s best cutter. But tonight, he was just overmatched with Monta Ellis. Ellis obviously had the quickness advantage offensively, but Singler couldn’t even take advantage of his size advantage when the Pistons had the ball. Ellis’ quick hands made it hard for Singler to get comfortable enough handling the ball to get good shots up.
Greg Monroe, C 29 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-3 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -1Monroe was solid as usual, other than his three turnovers. His activity on offense also helped get Larry Sanders — who has been playing really well lately — into foul trouble and make him a non-factor in the game. Monroe did get beat a couple of times by Drew Gooden in the third quarter, but other than that, he had a strong all-around game.
Brandon Knight, PG 35 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | -5Knight did two things well in this game — he made 40 percent of his 3-pointers and he played good defense on Brandon Jennings. He shot the ball poorly overall and had three assists with four turnovers though.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 22 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -3Not that anyone should expect great defense out of Villanueva, but he was one of several Pistons bigs who could do nothing with Ilyasova. Villanueva did make up for it some offensively, scoring 11 points. It was his fourth straight game scoring in double figures.
Austin Daye, PF 13 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +4Daye only played 13 minutes tonight, but he made the most of them, making both of his shots, scoring five points, grabbing three rebounds and blocking a shot. Both Daye and Villanueva emerging to be productive rotation members is probably the most surprising thing of the season so far, other than Drummond’s immediate readiness.
Andre Drummond, C 19 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3Drummond does what he always does at this point. He was impossible to keep off the glass, he protected the rim and he made a couple of jaw-dropping plays that only he and a couple others his size in the league are athletic enough to make.
Will Bynum, PG 24 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 8 PTS | +6Bynum’s scoring cooled off, as it was bound to do. The good — he didn’t look for his own shot as much and created shots for teammates, finishing with five assists. The bad — he also turned the ball over five times and got beat a couple of times defensively.
Kim English, SG 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -2English played! And he got a point and a rebound! He didn’t do enough in his six minutes to positively or negatively impact the game. But it’s Kim English! So he gets a C.
Lawrence FrankFrank had a good gameplan against the Bucks. Milwaukee is one of the better defensive teams in the league, all set up by their fantastic shot-blocking ability. The Pistons went right at Milwaukee’s bigs, particularly Sanders, and it resulted in Sanders playing just 20 minutes. With his point guards both struggling to take care of the ball, Frank also did a nice job adjusting and running the offense through Prince more to help steady things. The complaint is a familiar one — Drummond deserved more than 19 minutes based on his play — but enough went right in this game to overlook that. Frank’s in-game adjustments and gameplans seem to have become much better over the last week or so. Or maybe the players have just become better at executing what he wants to do. Either way, the coach should get credit for it.

Tags: Andre Drummond Austin Daye Brandon Knight Charlie Villanueva Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell Kim English Kyle Singler Lawrence Frank Tayshaun Prince Will Bynum

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