If Friday's double-OT win over the Timberwolves was ugly, Saturday's blowout against the Kings was absolutely beautiful. Only one starter played more than 30 minutes as the Pistons jumped out to an early lead and rarely let up. Have the Pistons lost their defensive identity? Well, the regained it for a couple of 12 minute stretches, holding the Kings to just 12 points in the first quarter and 15 in the third. All in all, Sactown Royalty declared it the Kings' worst game of the season. Nice job, fellas.
Saturday's game did feature the return the much-anticipated return of Ron Artest, which turned out to be a big downer if you were expecting some kind fireworks. Natalie from Need4Sheed attended the game and noted that it took longer to get inside with added security and metal detectors -- good move by the Pistons, in that regard, though it's worth noting the weapon of choice that started the last brawl was a cup bought from a Pistons concession stand.
In any case, Artest did do his part to get the fans into the game, sporting an attention-grabbing mohawk and doing a little pregame taunting. From the AP:
Ron Artest played imaginary catch with "friends" in the stands, making gestures like he was tossing a ball underhanded in different directions before his first game at The Palace since the brawl.
The fans simply responded with boos and jeers.
"Tossing a ball"? Is it me or is the AP writer a little slow? I didn't see it, but I'm willing to wager he was pretending to toss a cup.
I didn't see anyone mention it in print, but it certainly appeared that Artest did more than just pretend to throw things -- the Pistons telecast replayed video of the Kings being introduced, and George Blaha pointed out how Artest took his gum out of his mouth and chucked it into the stands. There was no ambiguity about it: either he did it or pretended to do it -- the camera angle was too close to see if anything left his hand, but he definitely took the gum out of his mouth and made the throwing motion. [Update: Need 4 Sheed has the gum-throwing video]
As for the actual game, Artest wasn't exactly a non-factor but he certainly didn't do enough to keep this close. He scored 14 on 6-14 shooting with six boards, four assists and four turnovers. He was booed every time he touched the ball, which appeared to egg him on into making some bad decisions. Or maybe that's just how he plays.
Chris Webber continues to get more comfortable. He recorded his first double-double (11 points, 10 boards) and dished out a couple of assists -- not to mention a couple of passes his teammates didn't expect and turned over. It's almost painful watching him lumber up and down the court, but I still think he makes up for it once the Pistons are in their half-court offense. I finally realized what he reminds me of: the old, fat guy at the neighborhood court who can't run, can't jump and certainly lacks the foot speed to stay in front of a quick ball-handler ... but give him the ball and watch him hit hook shots and find his cutting teammates. He keeps the offense moving despite being one of the slowest guys on the court.
As for the rest of the team, check the box score. The only other truly notable performance was by Antonio McDyess, who shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the field to finish with 12 points and eight boards in 24 minutes. After shooting .381 in November and .440 in December, McD is shooting .558 so far this month. Yeah, I think the slump is over. It's good timing, too, as Joe Dumars recently told McDyess that he's not trying to trade him. That's not to say he's untouchable (no one is in this league), but it's certainly good news for McDyess, who knows one of his front-court teammates will be moved in the coming weeks.