It's tough to put a finger on what exactly it was about the Utah Jazz last year, but there's no denying they had Detroit's number with two wins against the Boys in Blue in 2005-06. With that in mind -- preseason game or not -- it was good to see the Pistons pull out a 90-85 win against the Jazz on Monday night, even if they were still without their best player (Andrei Kirilenko is sidelined with back pain). The only starter on either team to play more than 25 minutes was former Piston Mehmet Okur, who played 29 minutes while going 1-7 from the field to finish with four points and seven boards.
For the Pistons, Flip Murray scored 19 points in 32 minutes, leading the team in both categories. Perhaps most impressively, however, he also tallied five assists and no turnovers after entering the game with 11 and nine, respectively, in his first three exhibition games. He's been mentioned in the past (much to our chagrin) as a candidate to back up Chauncey Billups. Generally speaking, that's a preposterous idea -- Murray is a scorer, first and foremost -- but at least he showed on Monday that he's not completely inept at moving around the ball.
Jason Maxiell continued his strong preseason play with a very efficient performance: 14 points on five field goal attempts in 24 minutes. He hit four of his shots from the field and went 6-12 from the line while adding seven boards and three blocked shots.
Free throws will be an issue for Maxiell -- he never cracked 70% from the line in college, either -- but it's not like he's so bad that the oppositon will ever devise a Hack-A-Max defense (he went 12-of-16 from the stripe on Saturday). Plus, he's working to improve. Flip Saunders told the Detroit News that Maxiell is working with assistant coach Dave Cowens in practice, but perhaps more importantly, Maxiell is working hard to stay in the right frame of mind:
"It's all mental, it's always been mental," he said. "I just say 'Happy Gilmore' and try to go to my happy place. I think of my happy place, picture my girl and shoot."
Is it me, or are you thinking about that midget cowboy riding a tricycle, too? I can actually see a little Happy Gilmore in Jason Maxiell, the way he simply abuses the rim and aggressively makes his moves in the lane.
Unfortunately, Carlos Delfino played the role of Shooter McGavin on Monday, firing away but coming up short in the end. He finished with just six points on 3-11 shooting from the field, including 0-5 from three-point land.
But you know what? I don't care. He can be a streaky shooter at times, but the last thing I want from him right now is to be gun shy. If you've been staying current on your Spanish-language newspapers, you know that he has the biggest chip on his shoulder of anyone on the team, and I'd much rather see him play hard than spend the year sulking like a certain other 2003 first-round pick we used to have. Saunders is already on the record indicating that Delfino has had a solid camp, so one game shouldn't matter all that much.
Aside from that, the only notable performance was from Nazr Mohammed, who hit 6-of-9 from the field to finish with 12 points in 25 minutes. Again, bear in mind the "it's the preseason" caveat, but you know how many times Ben Wallace scored at least 12 points last year? Only 13. That's right, a baker's dozen in 82 games. Don't underestimate how much having a legitimate fifth offensive option on the court will mean to the team this year.
At 3-1, the Pistons are halfway through the preseason. If you're living on the west side of the state, you have a chance to see the Pistons live on Wednesday as they play host to the Timberwolves at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. If you plan on attending the game, drop us a line: we'd love to see some pictures.