The Detroit Pistons hung with the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves but still walked away with the first loss of their six-game homestand.
The Pistons are making some tiny, minuscule baby steps, as Monty Williams said after the game, "Our record doesn't reflect it, but we're growing.”
I suppose not getting completely eviscerated by a good team is some small consolidation and sign of growth, and the Pistons have gotten better performances from Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren and Ausar Thompson of late.
Last night was the first game that the two players acquired in the recent trade with Washington were eligible to play. Danilo Gallinari didn't get off the bench and Mike Muscala played just 15 minutes.
Detroit made the trade with Washington to free future cap space by getting off Marvin Bagley III's final year, sending the Wizards two second-round picks for the favor, but there were benefits of this trade other than money.
The Detroit Pistons are playing Ausar Thompson more
Monty Williams' use of Ausar Thompson this season has perhaps been the most baffling of many baffling rotational decisions. But with Isaiah Livers out of the picture, Williams no longer has a choice and has played Thompson 27 and 21 minutes in the last two games.
Even though Thompson has missed all three of his attempts from long range, he's shooting 9-of-14 in the last two games, showing how he can get to the rim and finish. Thompson added 17 boards, three steals and a block in that span, showing how he can fill the scorecard and make an impact even if he can't make a 3-point shot.
I never understood the infatuation with Livers, who was equally bad offensively and miles worse on defense. Limiting Williams' options makes Thompson's development more of a priority by default and that is a good thing.
No more James Wiseman
James Wiseman picked up a DNP CD last night in favor of 15 minutes of veteran Mike Muscala. Even though Muscala didn't score, he added three rebounds, two assists and two blocks for a +6 on the night. Muscala is certainly not great, but he's a functional NBA player who at least knows where to be, which coach Williams noted after the game:
"I thought he was huge, young teams around the league surround their young guys with savvy players who can still play. There are things we think he can do to help our ball club."
That seemed like a veiled shot at Troy Weaver, who did not provide his coach the types of productive veterans he needs around his young core.
It's sad when a washed Muscala is an upgrade from the guy Troy Weaver traded Saddiq Bey to get, but he is, and will hopefully alert Weaver to the fact that he needs to surround his young core with veterans who can play even if they don't have the "upside" of a former second-round pick.
Not having to see Wiseman is a bonus of this trade, though I am sure some will disagree, as he occasionally does things that make you say "wow!" but more often does things that make you say "woah."