Pistons learning old folks needed to win

Detroit Pistons guard Alec Burks (5) Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Alec Burks (5) Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

While the future of the Detroit Pistons are its young players, in terms of winning games right now, it is mostly the old-timers who have led the way.

Beating the Miami Heat by 20 points in their home arena does not happen often, particularly after trailing by 11 points. But the Pistons pasted the Heat, 116-96, on December 7. It probably was the most dominant performance of the season for Detroit.

Miami was missing Jimmy Butler but they did have former All-Star guard Victor Oladipo for the  first time all season. The Heat have not gotten off to a good start this season (11-14 following the loss) but it was a team that was a missed Butler three-point shot away from making the NBA finals last season. They have lots of experience and know how to win.

Yet, in the clutch, it was Detroit that stepped up, outscoring the Heat, 38-23, in the fourth period.

"”We simply just didn’t play well,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (via AP). ”I thought we were pretty stable defensively through three quarters, and then the floodgates just opened.’"

Of course, injuries works both ways. The Pistons are without Cade Cunningham, maybe for the season, and for this game, Detroit also did not have Isaiah Livers due to a shoulder injury. Livers had been starting until he got hurt.

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Youth not really served in big Detroit Pistons victory

While some of the younger players contributed, the main factors in the pulling away at the end from the Heat were the old timers on the team (considering the have 10 players, 24 or younger, being called ‘old’ on the Pistons is relative.)

The three oldest players in Detroit’s regular rotation stood out in the big win.

  • As Killian Hayes was struggling this game, coach Dwane Casey put in veteran backup point guard Cory Joseph – and never took him out. Joseph, 31, played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. Joseph was a plus-23 in the game.

Having earned a ring with San Antonio in 2014, Joseph had experience in helping team’s pull out victories. Joseph only scored two points and dealt two assists in the fourth quarter but, importantly, he did not commit a turnover.

  • Veteran shooting guard Alec Burks, 31, scored five points in five minutes, 14 seconds of action in the final period. He finished with 18 points in the game, many of his buckets coming when the Pistons were struggling on offense early on.
  • The big star of the game for the Pistons was forward Bojan Bogdanovic, 33. He scored 28 of his 31 points in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Bogdanovic was 5 for 5 from the floor, scoring 14 points in the period.

Kind of interesting that the oldest player did his best in the last quarter.

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Young players learning how to win

That is not to say the ‘grey beards’ did it all by themselves.

Saddiq Bey also played the entire fourth period, and had seven points, two rebounds and two assists. He finished with an amazing +30 on the plus/minus.

Down the stretch, rookie Jaden Ivey played in the backcourt with Joseph. His driving layup with a minute to go put the Pistons ahead by 21.

Isaiah Stewart was in the middle at the end. He only scored two points, but he held the Heat’s All-Star center Bam Adebayo to just two fourth-quarter points.

Would Detroit Pistons been off playing kids and losing?

Coach Casey could have stuck with Hayes instead of Joseph, kept 19-year-old Jalen Duren in instead of going with Stewart, played Kevin Knox more than Bogdanovic. Sure, but the game might have ended differently, or at least been closer.

Yes, it would have given more playing experience to younger players but, to their overall development, were they better off being paired with veterans who know what you need to do win, even if it meant less minutes?

If the Pistons were truly tanking this season, Casey would have kept all the kids in. However, he went with the old timers, and it spurred them to maybe its best performance of the season.

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The bottom line is, to win on a consistent basis, against a quality opponent, you can’t just play a ‘Kiddie Korps’. Some old geezers, playing well, are needed.