Entering tonight's game the cards were not stacked in Detroit's favor (unless you believe in curses). The Pistons were missing not one, not two, but four of their better players (Hamilton, Prince, Gordon, and Bynum) and playing the second game of a back-to-back against one of the best teams in the Western Conference (0-5 in back-to-backs entering the game).
So it's realistic that Denver was overlooking Detroit and looking forward to returning home after a four game road trip. Charlie Villanueva thought so:
(Denver was) on the last game of the road trip. They might take us a little bit lightly, seeing all the guys out. But in this room, the guys believed we could win this game.
Pistons fans better believe it, too. We are 22 games into the season and despite all the injuries, falling behind (and sometimes big) in games, and having all odds against them, the Pistons continuously put forth 100% effort and scratch it out until the very end. Thursday night against the Nuggets was no different, and incidentally it also resulted in a hard-earned victory.
In addition to the injuries and any burnout from finishing a game less than 24 hours ago, Detroit also had to overcome a superstar performance from Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was essentially unstoppable tonight, dropping 40 points on 16-28 shooting.
Which makes one wonder why the Nuggets decided to give their final shot to tie the game, or win it with a three, in the hands of former Pistons guard, Chauncey Billups. Perhaps George Karl thought it was fate for Chauncey to come up big against the team, and in building, where he was coined as Mr. Big Shot. That's a noble thought, but 'Melo is one of the best clutch shooters in the NBA and just put up a career game. Why not let him finish it out right? Thanks, Coach Karl.
Big ups are also in order for Big Ben Wallace. He is averaging nearly 13 rebounds in the last seven games and without him tonight, the Pistons lose (by double-digits). He grabbed 16 rebounds tonight, six of those coming on the offensive glass. None were bigger than the tip in he had after an ill-advised Chucky Atkins shot around the two minute mark to put the Pistons up 99-96. He also had three steals, one which came with a minute remaining and led to a Stuckey layup to put the Pistons up 101-98.
More than those two huge plays and what the box score can tell you, he forced 'Melo to miss (when he did) a few times and created many other problems for the Nuggets that led to other Pistons collecting steals and/or rebounds.
Big Ben embodied Pistons basketball for all those years back around the time they won the championship, and he's doing it again. It's not really sexy to say a guy who has 16 rebounds to go with an ugly offensive game is our MVP, but then again, neither is the Pistons style of play, nor was this win.
Rodney Stuckey had his sixth quality game in a row, dating back to when he made his first start at the two spot. Tonight, he finished 7-14 from the field (11-15 from the line), which was good for 25 points. This was the first game of the season he did not have a single rebound. Charlie Villanueva added 27 points off the bench and had a team-high five assists.
More thoughts after you click.
- Pistons are on a four game winning streak.
- Denver has not won at The Palace since 1995. I didn't mean to dismiss that streak in the first paragraph, but I felt the way the Pistons continue to play was the bigger story. Denver Stiffs has an entertaining recap of what they think is a curse at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Being a die-hard Lions fan, I think I believe in curses.
- Nuggets had a chance to gain momentum and possibly start to pull away when J.R. Smith had a wide open break to the basket. He tried to create a highlight reel double-clutch dunk and he missed! The Pistons then hit a three to tie the game on the ensuing possession. I think Ben Wallace was the game changer, but this was as close to a game changer as they come.
- Harping some more on this team's hustle, it almost makes you forget that there are guys injured. While I'm watching the Pistons grind it out, I'm so encapsulated by what's going on, these Pistons don't give a fan much time to remember that they are missing key players. It's fun to watch, to say the least.
- Austin Daye gave a solid 22 minutes of action, hitting three big shots (7 points). I sound like a broken record, but I love his shot.
- DaJuan Summers hit a big time three pointer after a nice across court pass from Rodney Stuckey that gave the Pistons an eight point lead with 9:30 left in the 4th quarter.
- Jonas Jerebko finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Hustled, like woah, and turned in another noteworthy game. His night included this and-one, which was Number 6 on Sportscenter's Top 10 plays ("count that baby and a foul!"):
- The Pistons got to the line 41 times and took advantage of it by knocking down 35 of them.
- Chris Wilcox was the only healthy DNP.
- Highlights courtesy of NBA.com:
- Box Score
- Pistons return to action on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors. I'll be in attendance, let me know if you will be, too.