By: Bogart Lipe
Sometimes success isn’t linear. Things don’t go as planned. Sometimes you fail when success seems to be the only option. Sometimes you succeed when prospects look dire. Sometimes you have to stay in the same place or take a step back in order to move forward.
The Pistons went 1-1 last week against the Magic and Spurs. If I said that 7 days ago you’d have probably said “Okay, so they beat the terrible, appalling Magic as expected and lost to the ever-elite Spurs as expected.” And you’d have been wrong. By the grace of the Basketball Gods, the Pistons lost to the 11 win Magic last Thursday then outworked the Spurs on Saturday. Marreese Speights had 16 points for the Magic in the Pistons’ loss. Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard combined for 42 points on 8-12 shooting from deep as the Pistons held the Spurs to 79 points in a win. I don’t know. The NBA is weird. But the Pistons keep treading water, standing now at 20-15, on pace for 47 wins, and currently tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference. The team is to the NBA as the Filet-O-Fish is to the McDonald’s menu. The Filet-O-Fish is not nearly the best thing on the menu (and there’s a line of haters waiting to rail on it if you give them an opportunity to), but it most definitely can get the job done if you give it a chance. (In a close second, the McChicken could serve as a useful comparison, but only if the sandwich actually costs $5 and had one of the highest costs on the menu.)
Injuries continue to plague the Pistons, as they also played without Stanley Johnson (out with a nagging hip flexor injury) against the Spurs. Stanley is doubtful for the game tonight against the Miami Heat, and the team continues to miss Jon Leuer and Reggie Jackson. However, there is some good news. Avery Bradley practiced in full yesterday and is probable tonight. If he’s able to play at full strength, his defense and scoring will be a welcome sight back in the starting lineup, as the Pistons have a busy week ahead of them. Tonight, as previously mentioned, they play the Heat, and then play the Sixers, Rockets, and Pelicans in 4 nights. Each game is winnable, even without Stanley, Jackson, and Leuer. The chance the Pistons can win all four may not be incredibly high, but each individual game must be approached with a winning mentality. The Pistons can beat both the Heat and Sixers and it would not be surprising in the least bit. The Rockets will be without superstar James Harden, who will be out for the next two weeks with a hamstring strain, making the matchup a bit more enticing for the Pistons. Finally, although they are playing 0.500 basketball, the Pelicans are the Pelicans, and a follow up isn’t necessary.
Although Avery will likely return sometime this week if not immediately, players like Bullock, Kennard, and Ish Smith will need to continue to contribute and successfully fill in their roles. Bullock appears to have a hold on the small forward position for the foreseeable future, but for Kennard and Smith, filling in effectively for regular starters Bradley and Jackson will be key if the Pistons want to continue their play threatening for a top 4 seed in the East. The team can’t afford to show up lackadaisical like they did against Orlando, especially against teams that provide a larger challenge. Every game will be a grind from this point on until at least the All Star Break, and each provides an opportunity for the team to grow stronger together with increasing trust in each other as they fight through the adversity.