Last night, the Detroit Pistons pulled off another improbable, stunning, nerve-racking fourth-quarter comeback win in this young season. The Pistons were staring down a 16-point deficit against the Phoenix Suns with a little over eight minutes left in the game. Then Reggie Jackson decided to do something about it.
It was a riveting, Portland-esque, and frenetic ending. The cherry on top being Andre Drummond stepping to the line after a "non-intentional" foul (those are Chris Farley air quotes) and rattling in both free throws to tie the game. A missed Eric Bledsoe leaner and a Reggie-dominated OT later, the Pistons came out victorious.
I screamed at my dog. Jumped on my couch. It was an amazing victory against a legitimate playoff team in the West.
But as I laid in bed, scanning Pistons twitter, and trying to organize my thoughts, I kept having this creeping thought in the back of my head. "Where was that team in the second and third quarter?"
It's a question that I've found myself asking more than I would like. The Miami game -- where was that team against the Wizards? Where was the team that convincingly pulled away against the Cavs in the Bucks blowout?
It's something we've touched on briefly here in relation to the team's effort. The lack of effort might have something to do with lack of familiarity among the players. Of the starting five, only two have been here together for more than 10 months. Chemistry in basketball is a weird thing, there are instances where it can click instantly, but sustaining it is tough. Teammates are still learning tendencies, habits and spots where each other like the ball on the court.
But these trick-or-treat Pistons are going to give me a heart attack, and as a Tigers fan as well, my health is already in question.
The Suns took advantage of a soft Piston defense in the second and third quarters, putting up 31 and 32 points, respectively. Bledsoe was finding easy lanes to the hoop, and the Suns ball movement was Spurs-esque. I immediately began having Houston flashbacks. This is not the first game defense has lacked. It is also not the first time the offense has gone dormant. The Hack-A-Drummond tactic seems to not only highlight Andre's flaws, but it tends to put our entire offense to sleep - taking the pace and rhythm out of the game. It is no coincidence that this comeback was fueled by defense and fast break points.
A few years ago, HBO released a comedy special called Talking Funny with Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, and Louis C.K. examining their stand-up routines. If you have a spare 49 minutes, it's hysterical and will ruin a specific Otis Redding song forever. Louis C.K., at one point, specifically talks about how he puts his routine together, and where most comedians save their best bits for the end of their set, Louis C.K. talks about how he takes his ending bit and moves it to the beginning. The thinking being that he's now challenged himself by putting the best bit first, making him "rise to the occasion" (his words) and seeing how he can build from there.
It's a fascinating insight into a comedian's work ethic but also a good look at a model this Pistons team could use. That urgency and fight we saw in the fourth quarter Wednesday night is something this team needs in quarters one, two, and three. The days of #4QC seem to be gone (**furiously knocks on wood**) but now this team knows it can fight and hang with any team in the league not named Golden State. Yes, it's a problem that the fight seems to be dormant for long stretches, but there is something to be said for a team always knowing they're still in a game. That confidence, while dangerous, is crucial for a young team like the Pistons.
Detroit has a relatively easy December schedule ahead and could use these games to really make a statement and put their best bits in the beginning instead of saving them for the end.