A full 48. Leading into Saturday night's game against the defending champions, win or lose, competing for a full 48 minutes would go a long way in this team's continuing development. The Pistons entered the game on a two-game skid thanks to the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, the latter of which came in heartbreaking fashion. In a make or miss league, losing streaks happen and it's how the misses are handled that will eventually turn a good team into a great one.
Most young teams let their emotions dictate their play. Individually, some have participated in post season play but as a team, they're just scratching the surface of success. On a night with Ben Wallace's number heading to the rafters, numerous Pistons legends in house, an electric crowd and with the league's best team paying a visit, a flat, overwhelmed Pistons squad would hardly be a shock. A full 48 would go a long way.
Total team effort
How fitting. With most of the 2004 champion Pistons in attendance -- a team that prided themselves on playing the "right way" -- the current group received contributions from everyone who stepped on the court. Impressive to say the least, Detroit stomped Golden State 113 - 95. All five starters were double digit scorers, Aron Baynes put in 10 second quarter points, rookie Stanley Johnson continued to be not afraid of the moment and Steve Blake, filling in for an injured Brandon Jennings, hit a pair of triples.
It was a 17-3 Piston run in the second quarter that put the Warriors on notice. Andre Drummond collected his second foul with just under a minute remaining in the first quarter and the game could've took an ugly turn. Instead, Aron Baynes led a bench unit that not only kept the team afloat but gave the Pistons a handsome lead. Baynes scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting in just under five minutes in the second quarter.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 62 Warrior points which included some pretty spectacular shooting from Curry. The difference in the game being: no other Golden State Warrior made a noted impact. It's great to score 113 points but it was the Piston defense that won the game. Active hands led to deflected passes, second and even third efforts on defensive rotations led to contested shots and calculated gambles forced turnovers. Considering the variables, this was the best defensive outing of the season.
Steph Curry gets most of the headlines but Draymond Green is the alpha dog and a borderline irreplaceable player for Golden State. Along with being a triple-double threat every time he laces 'em up, Green isn't afraid to mix it up. With just under 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Green tested Drummond's patience with a two handed shove after a Warrior free throw. For most players throughout the league, not to mention a 22 year old, that test usually ends in Green's favor. Drummond didn't bite and went on his way. The two continued to jaw the remainder of the game but it never escalated which is a testament to Drummond's growing maturity and basketball IQ.
The Pistons clearly frustrated the defending champs and it was the Warriors who acted the part of a young team trying to prove themselves. Green, Curry and coach Luke Walton all racked up technical fouls.
A Memphis hangover would've been a small, yet understandable set back but the Pistons didn't linger on the tough loss. Reggie Jackson in particular, had a rough go of things against San Antonio and in Memphis. To his credit, Jackson responded with 20 points, eight assists and maybe most importantly, zero turnovers. As a team, the Pistons turned the ball over 20 times against the Grizzlies; limiting turnovers against Golden State would obviously be high on Stan Van Gundy's wish list as the Warriors love to run. That point of emphasis starts with Jackson and he delivered with the team following suit; the Pistons ended the night with only nine turnovers which helped to limit Warrior fast break opportunities.
Just as the Memphis game only counted as one loss, the Golden State win is just one game. The victory however, cements the fact that the Pistons can play with anyone. Drummond finished with another 20 rebound game, Jackson seemed to get back on track, but moving forward, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the X factor to this team's success. Not only did Caldwell-Pope score 20 points but he also chased Curry around every square inch of the court. Yes, the reigning MVP scored 38 points (he's inevitably going to get his) but KCP does as good a job as someone could reasonably expect. There's only one Curry in the league and the only possible way we see him again is in the NBA Finals (I'd be ok with that scenario).
KCP is best when he's aggressive on offense. Taking the ball to the hoop, make or miss, is a good decision. His one or two dribble pull up is quickly becoming a staple of his game. He set the tone early in the game by jumping passing lanes and making the Warriors work on both ends of the floor. Detroit fans know full well of his non-stop energy and after the Golden State game, he might finally start to catch on as bonafide two-way player league wide. This is Drummond's team, ran by Jackson, but ultimately, the success of this year's Piston team might be dependent on Caldwell-Pope.
To say the least, a full 48 was given. Could you have scripted a better night?