Warmups were ending and the players lined up for the national anthem. Before introducing the uber-underappreciated LaShell Renee to once again belt out an amazing rendition, Mason dropped a bombshell on the almost capacity crowd at last night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars founder and longtime owner of the Red Wings and Tigers, had died shortly before the game. It was news I had found out on the way to the game, but it was still surreal to hear the amount of audible gasps and feel the sadness fill the room. There was a moment of silence, followed by a few “Let’s go Red Wings” before the tip.
If you’re expecting this to be a column where I praise the vision and local impact of Mr. Ilitch, don’t worry — that’s not me and I would do a terrible job attempting to write that. All I can say is that growing up in the Metro Detroit area, the Ilitch name was royalty. Literally, the only corollary I can imagine is living in the United Kingdom. Everyone in high school pretended to know where one of the many Ilitch houses were (Vaughn Road? One in Birmingham off Maple? Bingham Farms?) and if you drove by one it was the equivalent of driving by a sacred statue or monument with a tour guide. For me personally, I was grateful for growing up with all those Stanley Cup parades, but more so grateful for the man who gave us the $5 Hot & Ready, feeding many a broke-ass teenage party. Shouts to that.
SVG had some kind thoughts and words for Mr. I’s local impact after the game too.
Stan Van Gundy on death of Mike Ilitch: 'It's a sad day for the city of Detroit' https://t.co/7mi8iB533Z— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) February 11, 2017
Look, I will keep it real. This was a boring ass game. I’m not going to even attempt to spin a full story around one player, or trend that I noticed. Instead, I’m going to straight up swagger jack the god Zach Lowe and hit you with six things I liked and didn’t like during while watching last night’s game at the Palace.
The first quarter
The sad and heavy energy from that moment of silence seemed to carry over into the game, which started with as ugly a first quarter as I can remember. If you didn’t know, Mason asks Pistons fans to stand till the first home team bucket, which I am convinced is a tactical move to pick out the newbies.
The Pistons started with three consecutive Andre Drummond post-ups resulting in bricks. Then a Leuer turnover. A Reggie Jackson missed layup, after which someone in my row commented that the people still standing might want to give up. Thankfully KCP saved their knees with a elbow jumper the following possession.
Ish Smith’s defensive communication
For those blessed enough to be within the first ten rows of the lower bowl, there’s a noticeable (audible) difference in how Reggie and Ish approach communicating on defense. Reggie, does a lot of pointing but not too much talking or quarterbacking. And when this is the case, neither does anyone else. There’s a few call outs for switches and screens but for the most part, it is quiet — eerily quiet.
When Ish hit the floor, it was the opposite. He was yelling out everything the Spurs were throwing, not just calling out screens and switches, but calling out rotations and help for other guys as well. And when he did this, so did everyone else on the floor. Whether it was Drummond, Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer or Marcus Morris, you could literally hear the difference.
Make of this what you will.
Meet DeAndre Jordan 2.0. Dedmon was the sole reason the Pistons got destroyed on the boards. When he wasn’t beating Drummond in positioning, he was making every Drummond board that much harder, flicking the ball away or having hands ready to swipe as Pistons pulled the ball down. Not to mention, these three alley oops were damn impressive.
HOW DO THE SPURS KEEP FINDING THESE GUYS.
Tim Hardaway, ready to throw hands
In the second quarter, there was a moment where Dewayne Dedmon got fouled pretty hard by Drummond going back up with an offensive rebound. When walking away from the foul, Dedmon for whatever reason gave Marcus Morris an aggressive shoulder bump. Marcus being Marcus, responded with an aggressive and full push to Dedmon, leading to a technical.
Afterwards, Dedmon shouted some things at the Pistons bench and assistant coach Tim Hardaway exploded out of his seat towards half court, giving Dedmon the most evil stare down I’ve seen in a long time. Marcus even gave his coach a pat on the back to cool him down, with a big ass smile on his face. It was pretty amazing to watch.
LaMarcus Aldridge’s bully ball post moves
Jon Leuer had the tough assignment of guarding Aldridge for the most the night, but played him relatively well for exposing his somewhat cheap moves inside. Aldridge is always looking for that easy mid-range shot the second he touches the ball, and Leuer did a good job of closing out quickly to take it away, forcing him to use his post moves. One move he used repeatedly and eventually got called an offensive foul for, was using the ball as a battering ram of sorts, swiping and shoving it into Leuer’s chest to create space.
The George Blaha montage
It was a special night being George Blaha’s 40th anniversary of calling Pistons games. The first 10,000 fans got Blaha bobbleheads and probably explained why there were so many fans in their seats before tip (I got to the game 20 minutes early and still no bobblehead). During the game they ran special video messages from Dick Vitale, Mario Impemba, SHHEEEEEEEEEED, Mr. Big Shot, Mark Dantonio, Tom Izzo, and more.
The coolest part hands down though was a video montage with Blaha’s calls of the 1989, 1990, and 2004 championship games ending. Straight goosebumps throughout the Palace.
A Spurs loss is easy to handle, especially with the Bulls and Bucks losing as well. The Pistons have a tough game against Toronto before the final run next week to All Star weekend.