My Detroit Sports: My Pistons Report #2

The Pistons have had a busy month having played 9 of their last 14 games at Little Caesars Arena. It was a month with more highs than lows, and with games against both the title contenders and ping pong ball collectors. Now more than 25% of the way through the season there is a clearer picture of who is playing for what in the Eastern Conference. At 13-8, the Pistons are in the middle of the pack and fighting for home court advantage in the first round.

Part of what has helped shape the Eastern Conference landscape is the blockbuster trade that saw All-Star Jimmy Butler head east from Minnesota to Philadelphia. Adding the third all-star piece has solidified the Sixers as one of the top teams in the conference and given them a better chance of making the Finals. MVP candidates Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo have lead the Raptors and Bucks to the top of the standings. At the same time, Victor Oladipo has been hurt and the Celtics have struggled to integrate Gordon Hayward into their offense. With Oladipo coming back and Hayward shaking off some rust off the bench recently, the Celtics and Pacers have better basketball ahead of them. Kemba Walker and Nikola Vucevic have lead the Hornets and Magic to the edge of the playoff race. With the all the drama and speculation regarding the Wizards, not to mention the injury to Dwight Howard, it will be difficult for Washington to re-enter the playoff picture. What does this mean for the Pistons? Of the current Eastern Conference lottery teams, only Miami looks to have the potential to enter into the playoff picture. Detroit needs every win they can get to avoid sliding down in the standings but look poised to end a 10+ year streak of 0 wins in the playoffs.

It would have been hard to predict that the outlook would be so rosy at the beginning of November. The month got off to a slow start with a tough loss in Philadelphia to end the road trip. Blake Griffin didn’t quite match his previous performance but still put up a monster 38/13/6 line in the loss. The losing streak extended to 5 with a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Heat. Andre Drummond’s pair of tip shots with under 20 seconds left, plus two missed free throws by Dwyane Wade, helped the Pistons overcome a late deficit and force overtime.

Sadly, Drummond’s 25 point/24 rebound performance went to waste. He would score exactly 23 points as part of double double’s the next 3 games as the Pistons won both games on the road against the suddenly respectable Orlando Magic and the very much rebuilding Atlanta Hawks before losing a lackluster game at home to the Hornets on 36.5% shooting from the field.

That’s when the Pistons went to Toronto to face the league leading Raptors. If the season is a success, we will look back to this game as the point where the season turned around. Facing an 11 point deficit heading into the 4th, Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson helped turn the game into a nail biter. Each scored 8 points as part of a 17-5 run that turned an 11 point deficit into a 1 point lead. The Pistons kept on attacking and grinding even after consecutive baskets by Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard tied the game at 104. They got the stops and a beautiful basket by Reggie Bullock at the buzzer to win the game. There was no doubt this was a game that Dwane Casey wanted. More importantly, it was a game the players wanted to win for him. You could see the joy on the faces of every member of the team.

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There’s no doubt that victory galvanized the team. The Pistons won 6 of their next 7 games before being blown out by the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Granted, all 6 wins were at home, but there were plenty of positives to take from this hot stretch. First, they took care of business against the teams at the bottom of the standings. Wins over the Cavs, Suns, Knicks, and Bulls count just as much as a win over Toronto. Building on that momentum is key. Second, they weren’t all wins against likely lottery teams. Pistons won the second game of a home and home against the Houston Rockets. The first game featured James Harden putting the game away in the final minute at the free throw line. In Detroit, the script was flipped when rookie Bruce Brown was put on James Harden and the Pistons pulled away at the end of a close game. The Pistons also weathered the return of Stephen Curry, who has put on incredible performances coming off of injuries before, in a convincing win over the 2 time defending champion Golden State Warriors.

 

More importantly, the Pistons are starting to play better and shoot better from the field. Being ranked 21st on offense while maintaining a top 10 (9th) defense isn’t elite, but it shows improvement on multiple fronts. A combination of improved health and play from the supporting cast have fueled that improvement. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are playing at an All-Star level. Reggie Jackson and Reggie Bullock’s shooting is starting to regress back to the mean after a slow start. Contributions from the under 22 crowd with Stanley Johnson and Bruce Brown have helped provide much needed depth on a bench that combines a youth movement with veteran experience. On the health front, having everyone on the court and playing together will help develop the chemistry that has been lacking.

All of that will be needed to survive this next month. There are 15 games between now and January 3rd , 2019. 9 of those games are on the road where the Pistons are only 4-4 on the season. They also must face the Bucks, Sixers, and Hornets twice. There is also a home game against Boston and more matchups against good Western Conference teams like the Grizzlies, Timberwolves, and Pelicans. Only one game of the 15 is against a lottery team. A .500 or better record in these games would help solidify the Pistons in the standings. Struggle and it becomes a fight for a playoff spot.

My Detroit Sports have been at several Pistons games to capture all the action. Be sure to show your Pistons pride on Instagram (@mydetroitsports) and you could be eligible to win future giveaway prizes!

My Detroit Sports: My Red Wings Report #1

2 months, 23 games into the young Red Wings season. If there’s one word to describe the 2018-19 journey so far, it’s REBUILD. This is something new to Wings fans, who ended their playoff streak (25) just three seasons ago and 2 years ago, Pavel Datsyuk announced he would not return to Detroit. instead opting to go back to his home country of Russia. Datsyuk was the first domino to fall and on the eve of the 2018-19, it was deja vu all over again when the captain, Henrik Zetterberg announced his retirement from hockey, due to degenerative back issues.

So where does this leave the Detroit Red Wings? It was an unpopular decision for owner, Chris Illitch to retain GM Ken Holland and Coach Jeff Blashill. The Wings dropping their first 9-out-of-10 games only added fuel to the fire. Their lone win coming from an overtime shootout in Sunrise, Florida against the Panthers, 4-3.

After the rough start, Detroit would start to gain some traction, collecting 3-game and 4-game win streaks, October going into November. 8-5 for the month. 3 of those losses were decided by a goal.

The Wings young core of Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha have led the charge. AA leads Detroit with 11 goals. Larkin has a team high, 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists), Gustav Nyquist 18 points (15 assists), Bertuzzi 15 points, with Mantha and Frans Nielsen at 14 points each.

Around the NHL, pertaining to Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning GM, Steve Yzerman decided to step down to take an advisory role with the Lightning.

Also, longtime rival, Chicago Blackhawks decided to part ways with 3-time Stanley Cup winner, Coach, Joel Quenneville after missing the playoffs last season and starting the 2018-19 season 6-6.

Middle of the pack, sitting at .500 (11-11) and 25 points, it’s too early of an assessment of Coach Blashill and the Wings, however if the losses start to mount near the All-Star break, Detroit might want to consider a change at the helm. Will that come with a familiar face in Yzerman? Is there interest in Coach Q? It remains to be seen.