By: Bogart Lipe
This week was a good week. The holiday season is fully upon us, the time of year we get to spend with friends and family. This is great. Don’t get me wrong. But, the Pistons are winning again. So this was a really good week. The Pistons beat the Hawks, Pacers, and Magic this week. None of the three teams are truly talented or scary teams. The Hawks have been repulsive all season. The Pacers are decent, in the same way that an artificial Christmas tree is decent. The Magic’s season has been similar to a restaurant that brings you an amazing and delicious spinach and artichoke dip appetizer. You get your hopes up. The night is off to a nice start. This should be a filling, maybe respectable, meal. You order your entrée. Then your waiter/waitress brings you what looks like a catastrophic soup of broth and thawed vegetables around a piece of meat when in actuality you were expecting a nicely prepared 9 ounce sirloin with crisp potatoes and asparagus. Or maybe, in the Magic’s case, you actually expected the tragic meat soup to come out of the kitchen. Maybe you didn’t have any expectations, and you were only there for the 2 for $20 deal. I don’t know. The Pistons nearly blew two huge leads to the Magic and Pacers, but were able to hold on for four and six point victories, respectively. But a win is a win, and the Pistons need as many as they can muster, especially following the disastrous and nearly cataclysmic 7 game losing streak preceding this mini winning streak.
It hasn’t been all good news for the Pistons. Avery Bradley, indisputably a top two most important player on the roster, has missed the last two games due to a groin strain. It was announced yesterday that he will continue to sit out, and be reevaluated in a week’s time. Although the upcoming schedule continues to look favorable (with games against the Mavericks tonight, then Knicks, Pacers, and Magic), the Pistons can’t afford to miss Bradley for much longer. Luke Kennard has started the two games, but Stanley Johnson has played starter minutes in spite of starting the game on the bench.
Now to the good news. First, and it’s surreal that I’m typing this, Reggie Bullock is playing good basketball. The initial decision to start him over Stanley was puzzling to some, including me, but it now appears Bullock has become comfortable and is playing some of his best basketball. Averaging 15 points per game over the last three games, including a team-leading 20 points against the Magic, Bullock has proved very useful on offense. Coupled with Stanley playing better coming off the bench, Stan Van appears to have made the right decision for now. We’re yet to see how the team does with the lineup change against a larger sample size including more capable teams, but it doesn’t look dire and desperate like it did last week at this time.
One thing the team needs to improve on is how they finish games. This is a polar opposite compared to games early in the season, when the Pistons dug themselves huge holes early in games and then forced themselves to try to come back. Recently though, the Pistons have built up large leads against lesser teams, have let up, and allowed the opposition to climb back into the game and make it close and competitive. The team should be able to take the Pacers and Magic games as lessons and be able to close out games ruthlessly. Each of the next four games are winnable, even without Avery Bradley, and hopefully the Pistons can cancel out their 7 game losing streak with a 7 game winning streak.