On Saturday, the Detroit Pistons beat the Houston Rockets, a legitimate top-five Western Conference team, on the road. Detroit controlled most of the game and put the clamps down on any meaningful Houston comeback attempt all second half.
What the fans should take from this game is a little complicated. Let’s begin with the very obvious: Detroit has been playing better basketball recently, winners of five out of their last seven. That counts for something. Detroit is 11-15 and as of the afternoon of December 16, sit just a game out of the playoff picture.
The reason I write that this win is a little complicated is that, although Detroit was without their All-Star caliber center in Andre Drummond, Houston was on a back-to-back and was without Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon, two guys that serve as dependable perimeter support players for James Harden.
You can also add in to the complication bucket the fact that Blake Griffin did not play in the second half due to knee soreness. No kidding on that knee soreness — it was uncomfortable to watch him out there. He had ZERO lift. This was evident with his play underneath and with his flat jump shots. Almost even worse, Blake had nearly zero lateral quickness. We all give it up to him for toughing it out lately (and always), but it’s getting increasingly obvious he’s not anywhere close to even 80-percent, and is, for the most part, not helping the team by playing.
So yes, Blake not playing in the second half against the Rockets benefited the Pistons more than anything. It’s rough to type that — and we all know where this is headed. Blake will likely sit for a long time. And I mean long. He needs to.
But what about being positive with this team right now? Here you go:
Without their top two front court players, other Pistons stepped up against the Rockets. And more than actually making shots and making smarts plays, the intensity was there for most of the game on both ends of the court. You can call it “playing hard” or “getting after it” — it doesn’t matter, Detroit was intense, and it’s not something we see from them as much as we should.
The NBA season, we know, is too long and the scheduling is haphazard at best, but most of the bad teams on a consistent basis don’t play with the needed intensity to win games anyway. Lots of those bad teams are mostly young and just don’t know what it takes to win in this league.
Even without a healthy Blake Griffin, if the Pistons can sustain this intensity, then this team can win enough games to make the playoffs, and probably more importantly to most of us reading, give us Pistons fans a reason to tune in and follow this team more often. Andre Drummond, Luke Kennard, and Derrick Rose, with the stellar shooting of Tony Snell, Langston Galloway, mixed with the young talents in Bruce Brown and Christian Wood, should not be a team among the East’s worst.
So, is this a team that will win a playoff series? Nope. Sorry, but we already know that. However, if we are only worried about the here and now (try to win games!), which I’m certain the players and coaches are, then the focus should be about playing as intense and focused as possible and seeing where it can get them.
You know, being that it’s nearing the start of a new year (I’ll refrain from being too cliche), optimism and positivity can, and should, go a long way in directing us to a better, happier place mentally as fans. Because why not? With the organization not having a real clear plan in place at the moment, the best we can do as fans is just wait and see, and *GULP* hope for the best from the current players.
If us fans knew that, despite some of their talent shortcomings, the current players were playing an intense brand of basketball, I know we’d get so much more out of our entire fan experience. Isn’t it super easy to support a team (no matter their talent level) that busts their asses the vast majority of the time? Yes, it’s super easy! And fun! Remember some of those teams in the early 2000s that went to work right before Detroit became really good?
There are too many players on this roster with a lot to prove. Some will be here past this season, other will not. As fans, we must realize that, and also realize that this team isn’t even close to being built (or set up) to tank as currently constructed anyway. This situation is so far from being the ‘Process 76ers’ of not too many years ago. If Detroit did tear it all down in the next couple of seasons, are we then looking at, say, at least ANOTHER three years after that of horrible suck? Probably. That’s more suck than I can count to.
Point being, let’s hope these current players continue to work and play with as much intensity and focus as they can — and more wins will likely come because of it. And even if it’s only good for about a .500 record, a team that works hard is something fans can get excited about. It’s no fun watching a relatively bad team lose games.
But, what about a relatively bad team evolving into a respectable team, one that wins games by playing hard, improving, and growing as a team? That will be enjoyable to watch. I believe these Pistons have that in them.
I wrote it after the Pelicans victory early last week and I’m still inclined to go with it now: the Pistons are showing us recently that they might be finding their form.
It’s something the fans should get behind.