The Detroit Pistons have emerged as an early contender in the Eastern Conference. It may come as a surprise for many however, especially because last years acquisition of Blake Griffin was an undoubtedly questionable decision by former general manager Stan Van Gundy.
That said, it’s beginning to pay off, or so it would seem. It’s early doors in the NBA season, so obviously, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions too early but if Blake Griffin and co. can continue their fine form and stay off the injury list, they could give the rest of the contenders a run for their money.
The Pistons entered the season with a clash against the Brooklyn Nets, which they won 103-100. Griffin was integral in the close encounter, posting 26 points, six assists and eight rebounds, whilst Andre Drummond was equally dominant in both ends of the court, acquiring 20 rebounds and 24 points.
In game 2, the Pistons entered the United Center oozing confidence, which was displayed on the court. Once more, Griffin was overpowering. He played more minutes than anyone on the team (35), as well as scoring 33 points, with five assists and 12 rebounds. In addition, Reggie Jackson ran the point well, producing 18 points and six assists.
Game 3 provided a candidate for game of the year, which saw the Pistons stump the 76ers in overtime 133-132. Griffin had a career-high 50 point game, which included the game-winning layup and one. 14 rebounds and six assists concluded one of his best performances to date.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) October 24, 2018
Next was game four. Drummond was absolutely immense in the paint as he amassed 22 rebounds. He also tied Griffin with 26 points, which were crucial in the 110-103 victory. The win for the Pistons clinched a decade best 4-0 start, whilst the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers remain winless.
Finally, game 5. The Pistons entered Boston facing, one of the best teams in the league. And they disappointed. Griffin, who played the most minutes again (30), was majorly ineffective with just 6 points. As for the rest of the rotation, they were simply outscored in what was a sluggish performance. The Celtics cruised to victory.
Beyond the Statistics
The Pistons face the Celtics once more on Tuesday night, which provides an opportunity at redemption following their crushing defeat at the weekend.
The key to success for the Pistons will be sustainability. As of now, Griffin has already played 179 minutes. Despite his impact during these minutes, Griffin’s career has been riddled with injuries. The Pistons must be able to provide rotation in the lineup in order to prevent fatigue among the team’s elite players.
Ish Smith can bridge the gap in rotation. He possesses solid shooting ability and is a key creator on offence when given the opportunity. This is most evident in his 15-point second half against the Bulls in game 2, where he was able to drain the game-winning basket.
I’d also like to take a moment to praise the Pistons’ new head coach, Dwane Casey. The 2018 NBA Coach of the Year, Casey is most effective in maximising the talent of his roster, something he achieved to great effect in Toronto. It appears he has been successful in utilising this skill to great effect, particularly in the case of Griffin who has returned to the form of previous years, like that of the 2013-14 season.