Feels good, doesn't it? Detroit defeated a struggling playoff-bound counterpart from our own division in a sweeping style, scoring at a 56.2% clip on the league's best defenders. Milwaukee's scoring woes continued, and despite an advantage on the offensive glass and the free throw stripe, Detroit still managed to put together a 14-point win.
Before we go into just how Detroit captured this W, let's take another look at the team's well-publicized "third quarter collapse". Has the third quarter really been the most important quarter for this Pistons team? Take a look at this:
Detroit's record when they don't win the first quarter: 0 - 9
Detroit's record when the do win the first quarter: 6 - 1
The same players start the first and the third quarter for the Pistons, and despite a nominal change at power forward, Coach Kuester's lineups are remarkably under-performing when it counts. But hey, this isn't a night to point fingers or complain, this is a night to celebrate. A black Friday has officially turned into a night of magic.
How did the Pistons do it? Most notably, Detroit had 7 players in double figures, they had more assists tonight than the last two games combined and took much better care of the ball. So who won this game for Detroit? Who didn't. It's not easy to pick out an MVP for this one, so praise must be shared equally... you know, like we used to do in Detroit:
- Rodney Stuckey: Much, much more of this please. Rodney scored 18 points on 12 attempts with 7 assists and 2 turnovers. This is how you prove your worth and earn a new contract.
- Richard Hamilton: Rip (van winkle) awoke from his slumber for 15 points (on 9 attempts) plus 9 assists, going 100% from the perimeter and the free-throw stripe. Keep banging that tramp and washing those dishes, please.
- Tayshaun Prince: This is precisely why Tayshaun is an excellent trade piece in spite of his expiring contract. 14 points on 11 attempts, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks-- and he finally had the decency to give Q a reach-around.
- Charlie Villanueva: 15 points, 8 rebounds, a steal and a block. All of those stats were a blast to watch tonight, despite the ticky-tack fouls where he smiles a little and holds his gum in his teeth.
- Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and Jason Maxiell were the role players who made this game happen, despite Rodney's fouls, a lack of scoring down the stretch and a need for rebounding early (all respective comments).
Okay, so let's go back to the comment about how Detroit's games have been determined in the first and third quarters. Pulling Austin Daye out of the 4 position makes total sense (although chaining him to the bench does not). But this team can't wait for Rip to get hot, night-in/night-out, nor can it hope for steady scoring out of a starting frontcourt featuring Maxiell and Wallace. This seems obvious to everyone but John Kuester, but a swap of Gordon for Hamilton and Villanueva for Maxiell in the starting lineup is just the sensible thing to do.
When the Pistons don't win the first quarter, they lose. Every single time. But fans and the media are so focused on our third-quarter failures that they miss the point. The players that start the first quarter start the third as well, and if a change is made here this team could produce at a markedly higher level. The Pistons have enough depth to cover the bench if we make these changes, and beyond "shopping players for trades" I can't seem to figure out why this lineup makes sense to anyone in spite of its poor production in the 1st and 3rd. In light of tonight's big win, let's not rest on our laurels and celebrate victories without demanding more out of our team.
This team doesn't need to lose first quarters. They don't need a 3rd quarter collapse either. They need a starting lineup at 48:00 and 24:00 that puts its best foot forward... every single night.
Congratulations, Pistons. Respect is due to you and Coach Q for a big W against a tough team, even without it's starting center. Let's take this momentum into Sunday afternoon's game against Poor Man's David Lee and the Knew York Nicks.