During the winter in Alaska, there is a rather long period of time where there is minimal light. The sun will rise once every day, but it may be for less than a minute. For most people, this sunrise is not long enough to make it feel like it is daytime. That is exactly how the Detroit Pistons season has been going recently during their 13 game losing streak. With the win over the Phoenix Suns Friday night, was that just the quick rise of the sun on an Alaskan winter day?
Over their 13 game losing streak, the Pistons have also had small glimpses of daylight. There were the four straight double-doubles by Andre Drummond, three of which were when Brandon Jennings was out with a thumb injury. You also have the fact that in the last 10 games, Drummond has only shot under 50-percent three times (unlike the first 13 games where he only shot over 50-percent four times). You also have things like how the Pistons almost beat the Suns in their last matchup and were an ill-advised Josh Smith three pointer away from taking a full strength Oklahoma City Thunder team into overtime. But there was still the darkness of a 13 game losing streak, tying the second-longest losing streak in franchise history.
But darkness no more. It was a close game from start to finish. The Pistons never led by any more than five points and they never trailed by any more than eight points (that was in the first quarter). You can thank Jodie Meeks being back.
No, he did not tear up the stat sheet in his first regular season game as a Piston. However, he allowed Stan Van Gundy to use his roster how he wanted. In his first game back, Meeks logged almost 22 minutes. Only about three of those minutes came from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope while the rest came at the expense of Kyle Singler (who did not start). In those 22 minutes, Meeks was pretty good for his first game back. He did not shoot any threes, but was 4-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line for 12 points. But what he provided really does not shot up in the box score.
Meeks was active all game. At one point, I thought Richard Hamilton was making a comeback. Those of us that were lucky enough to watch the Goin' to Work crew remember Hamilton relentlessly running on offense without the ball to get into position. That is exactly what Meeks was doing (as can be seen here). This resulted in what looked (to the eye test) like better ball movement whenever Meeks was in the game. As such, eight of the 10 players logged 20 or more minutes. Van Gundy was able to shuffle around the rotations how he wanted and get pretty even distribution of minutes and shots. Six players had nine or more shots. Of course, Josh Smith (tied with Drummond) led the way with 14 shots and Jennings was a close third at 13. However, aside from Drummond and Caldwell-Pope, none of the other players who shot nine or more times shot above 50-percent. Even still, the Pistons did shoot 47.6-percent from the field, almost a full seven points above their season average.
Another aspect of the game Meeks affected was points in the paint. The Pistons scored 60 points in the paint (their most of the season and 16.5 above their season average), six of which came from Meeks. Another 20 of those points came from Drummond, but the others came from transition and better ball movement.
If Meeks can continue to provide consistent movement without the ball and encourage better ball movement, he will more than earn his time on the floor. Meeks' presence may also encourage a better game from Caldwell-Pope by providing some steady examples. What has been a position of weakness may have finally been shored up.
Now the question stands: Will it be any brighter after the Pistons face the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, or will darkness return?
GameThread roll call:
|16||OK from J||15|
|38||ghost of Dumars||4|