Pistons news: A real team, Ausar's impact and the end of an era

Jan 28, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) dribbles against Ausar Thompson of the Detroit Pistons
Jan 28, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) dribbles against Ausar Thompson of the Detroit Pistons / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons handily beat the Western Conference-leading OKC Thunder in a rare day game at Little Caesar's Arena.

That's not a typo and you read it correctly: The worst team in the NBA, on the second game of a back-to-back that was missing its best player beat the team that is tied for the best record in the NBA.

For three quarters, the Detroit Pistons looked like a real basketball team. They moved the ball well nearly all game and had just nine turnovers to 27 assists. They featured six players in double figures and the entire bench had a positive net rating.

They got stops when they needed them and held the league's 3rd-best 3-point shooting team to just 28 percent from long range.

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It was a complete shock given the pathetic effort the Pistons gave just the day before, a loss to the Wizards that prompted me to write some of the most negative things I've ever written about this team.

So what changed? For one, there was effort. Both Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey made hustle plays all night and the team as a whole was much more engaged. But the biggest change may have been that slow roll Monty Williams finally figured out that his rookies are talented.

Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser mark the beginning of one era and the end of another for the Detroit Pistons

Call me a cynic, as I have no faith the Pistons can replicate this win, but at least for one night, they seemed to have figured some things out.

Ausar Thompson finished with just nine points, four rebounds, a block and a steal but was big on both ends. In the first half, he scored a couple of easy ones rolling to the rim after being the screener in the PnR with Sasser.

I nearly fainted.

Thompson has shown he can be effective in this role, far more than just standing in the corner. He can make plays when he gets to the rim, whether it's finishing in traffic or dishing it out, which he did a few times when he ran into Chet Holmgren.

More of this two-man game, please. It works far better with Sasser, who is actually a threat to score and makes use of Thompson's athleticism.

Thompson was also big on the defensive end, as he made life difficult for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the second half, wearing him down and forcing him to pass to teammates who were not making shots. SGA still got his, as he is an offensive force, but Ausar was able to make it difficult and force the ball out of his hands a few times in key possessions.

Marcus Sasser FINALLY eclipsed Killian Hayes in minutes last night, which should hopefully mark the end of the Hayes era in Detroit. Many people pointed out that Killian has started in five of the six Pistons' wins, which is like saying that the Pistons washed their hands in sinks in all of their wins, so sinks must be the cause.

I'm not trying to pick on Hayes here, as his unselfishness did set the tone for the ball movement we saw all night. But Sasser is better at just about everything and is a threat to score. He's far better in the PnR and was a big part of the Pistons taking the lead in the 2nd quarter when Detroit scored an outlandish 46 points.

The biggest difference is that when defenders stick with the roll man, Sasser can make them pay, unlike Killian, whose defender just leaves him and crowds the lane.

Monte Morris looked to have his legs under him a bit more last night, so when Cade Cunningham returns, Killian's minutes should be limited.

It's not just that Sasser is miles better offensively, but he's under contract for next season and Killian isn't. The Pistons traded up to get Sasser, so it's time to unleash him off the bench and put Killian on it. This season is about the future, not the present and Hayes is unlikely to be part of the future in Detroit.