The Detroit Pistons got their first road win of the season last night against the Denver Nuggets, which was great to see for a young team that has struggled mightily away from home.
The Pistons did it without Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, who are all still out with various injuries.
If you just looked at the stats, you would not think this was a game that the Pistons won, as they once again shot the ball poorly from long range and were bested in nearly every category.
But Denver was even worse from long range, so those couple of extra threes were part of the difference in the win. The other part was the bench, which dominated Denver’s second unit 53-22 and was the deciding factor in the victory.
Denver’s bench is one of the top-10 in scoring this season, so holding them to just 22 points was huge and is something that has been a recent trend for the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit Pistons: The bench is trending up with Alec Burks
After last night, the Pistons’ bench has outscored the opponents’ bench four games in a row, which is a big turnaround from the beginning of the season when they were by far the worst bench in the league.
Detroit has climbed up to 24th in bench scoring in that span, mostly because of the return of Alec Burks, who has been on fire in the six games since he’s been back.
Burks is up to 16.3 points per game on the season while shooting 45 percent from the field and 39.3 from long range. He’s also getting to the line, shooting 6.5 free throws per game which is by far the highest of his career.
Burks has given the bench the boost it needed. It’s only a shame that it had to come with three key players out with injury.
But it hasn’t just been Burks, as rookie Jalen Duren has been excellent off the bench this season, especially on the boards, though he has also shown more as a passer in the short roll, picking up two more assists in last night’s win.
We’ve also seen a mini-surge from Kevin Knox, who has scored in double digits in two straight including a season-high 17 points last night.
The bench is trending up and starting to look like the unit Troy Weaver envisioned for the season. It would have been nice to see this group playing well while the rest of the team was at full strength, and you have to wonder how things might have gone differently this season if the Detroit Pistons ever had their full complement of players.