As we approach the end of the regular season, the Detroit Pistons entered Monday night's contest essentially tied with the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards all won on Monday night, so a lapse in play and effort would be as unwelcome as an SVG bear hug following a triple overtime nail-biter.
But if you watched the first quarter, you would have had no idea that Pistons were vying for their first playoff berth since 2008-09. The starters entered the game looking sluggish, unmotivated and played an overall sloppy brand of basketball. Detroit was somehow outscored 30-17 in the first quarter, with ex-Piston Khris Middleton leading the charge. Middleton torched the Pistons all night, shooting 11/16 with a game-high 27 points. His mid-range game was unstoppable; he got whatever shot he wanted when Reggie Jackson switched onto him.
Not only was Middleton playing well, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was in full on beast-mode himself; he shot 10/17 from the field, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and zero turnovers. At one point he decided to take on the entire Pistons team, went coast to coast, and finished with an emphatic dunk on the other end. Even George Blaha was loving himself some Greek Freak. Can you blame him?
Early on in the game, the Bucks' starters outperformed our starters and their bench outperformed our bench. With the combined efforts of Giannis and Khris, the Bucks lead ballooned to 18 points in the second quarter. It looked like the Pistons were just going to lull themselves and their fans into a sleepy loss. I found myself texting my buddies, deflated about how poorly the Pistons were playing, and questioning how a team who's battled all season for a chance to make the big dance could put up preseason-level effort.
Detroit gave up more field goals, shot worse from the floor, had fewer assists, and were out-rebounded, all while trailing for about 99 percent of the game. Yet they found a way to nab possibly the most crucial (and one of the more unlikely) wins of the season.
With stats like that, how in the world were the Pistons able to get a W?
We'll start with Marcus Morris, who had possibly the most efficient game of the Pistons entire season. He shot eight for nine from the field for 21 points, including four for four from 3, and added four assists and three rebounds. He continued to hit clutch buckets when the Pistons needed him most. The Bucks' lead would inflate, and Morris would end a Pistons scoring drought with a crucial basket. When it was time to hit big shots in the final quarter, Morris stepped up again, and hit two massive threes to bring the Pistons within striking distance.
(A tasty side-note: Morris has shot 16/21 from deep over his past six games. Let us all hope that he keeps up that level of shooting for the rest of the season.)
Andre Drummond notched his league leading 58th double double this season, scoring 14 points and grabbing 16 boards. While Dre did not have his most flashy or dominant performance of the season, he was steady, did not get aggravated when calls did not go his way, and did his part in keeping the Pistons close late into the fourth quarter.
The elephant in the paint was certainly the last play of the game. Did Tobias Harris travel? Mayyyybe. Did Kentavious Caldwell-Pope take an ill-advised three pointer with four seconds left on the clock? Definitely. Could the Milwaukee Bucks stop Andre Drummond? Hell no.
I was questioning why the Pistons brought Drummond out on the floor for the final play of the game, seeing as Milwaukee could have hacked him as soon as he set a screen, but that just goes to show why Stan Van Gundy is a head coach in the NBA, and I'm finishing up a DBB article on my lunch break.
At the end of the game my Twitter feed was filled with "ANDREEEE!" tweets, while receiving text messages of relief from the same buddies I was venting to in the beginning of the game. The Pistons stormed the court celebrating with their All-Star, who might have possibly saved the season with that last second tip-in.
Now it's your turn, Detroit Bad Boys nation, what were your thoughts regarding last night's epic comeback?