By: Bogart Lipe
A few weeks ago, we agreed the Detroit Pistons were a good team. The Pistons today are a different team. The Pistons today are an objectively bad team. The Pistons today are to basketball as Taco Bell is to Mexican food. This, as you may have guessed, is not a compliment. The Pistons today have lost seven games in a row, and look holistically lost. The argument that this stretch of games has been difficult is tired. With losses this past week to the Bucks, Warriors, Celtics, and Nuggets, the Pistons now sit 14-13. The Pistons are staring mediocrity in the face. Losses to the Bucks, Warriors, and Celtics doesn’t necessarily tend to throw teams into panic mode. However, the overall attitude and apparent lack of heart exhibited is frightening. Everything was encapsulated in an Oh My God Is This Actually Happening 104-83 loss to the Nuggets at home last night. Andre Drummond failed to score in double digits for the third game in a row, Avery Bradley shot 2-12 as Tobias Harris failed to make any of his seven shot attempts, and Reggie Jackson looked tentative and sluggish while making decisions on offense. Compounding the mess, Stan Van Gundy does not seem to know how to steer the team back to its winning ways.
Last night, SVG benched Stanley Johnson in favor of Reggie Bullock. This move was, at the least, intriguing. At the most, it was irresponsible. Not only because SVG saw it fit to start Bullock, who is regularly the 11th or 12th man, but that Stanley did not receive any meaningful minutes with the second unit until Denver had already ran away with the game. It’s an unfair move to Stanley, as he is not a main reason the Pistons have struggled and the move seems to indirectly (or even directly) pin blame on him. This may or may not be true, and we will see what SVG decides to do tomorrow against the Atlanta Hawks. Unless the team starts to put together wins, Van Gundy may start to lose his grip on the locker room.
The schedule does “lighten up”, with upcoming games against the aforementioned Hawks, Pacers, Magic, and Mavericks. However, none of the games seem as easily conquerable for these Pistons, who suddenly find themselves in a 4-way tie spanning the sixth through ninth seeds in the Eastern Conference. If the team is going to start to win games for the first time in two weeks, they must display a will to win. Of course, the offense has been absolutely and positively atrocious, with the Pistons averaging under 93 points per game during their skid. But, as always, this team thrives on itself when each player is playing with hunger and heart. The defense has been decent enough, but there has noticeably been less transition opportunities taken advantage of off missed shots and turnovers. The half-court offense has simply been subpar, which may be a result of the team being their own worst enemy and not believing in themselves, or the rest of the league finally having enough film on the new motion offense orbiting around Andre. If it’s the latter, the Pistons may have a larger, more permanent problem on their hands, but it does not appear we are at that stage yet. The Pistons have to start attacking the basket with more ferociousness and frequency, opening shots up for guys like Tobias and Avery, and hoping they can get back to their previously sweet stroking ways. And it begins tomorrow, with what feels like as much of a must win game as a matchup in December can feel like against the 6-21 Hawks.