Hitting Their Stride

Blaha: After slow start, Pistons recovery starts with Palace success

The Pistons hope to capitalize on momentum gained through their recent home winning streak.
Allen Einstein
The Pistons have had some ups and downs this season, which is exactly what you expect from a young team still trying to find itself in terms of its rotation and minutes for people in the rotation. But let’s also not forget about the schedule. The schedule was murder, frankly, when you play one game against a team with a recently added sensational scorer – Houston and James Harden – and then take off for six out west.

You better get lucky in a couple of games if you want to get a couple of wins and the Pistons were the opposite of lucky. They were unlucky more than once on that trip.

Coming back winless looked much worse than it really was. I felt like the victory at Philadelphia showed what this team could do against a playoff-bound team. Their recent home-court winning streak has shown they can take advantage of their home floor and their fans and all the familiarity you get when you play at home.

If you want to be a good team, you have to protect home court. If you want to be a very good to great team, you have to win on the road. The Pistons will learn how to do that well in the future.

That future, by the way, looks much brighter and a big reason why is the addition of Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler. Their contributions have been beyond significant and I think they’re going to be able to contribute even more as we go along. When Andre changes the game – and it seems like he does more often than not with his work on the offensive glass and protecting the paint on the other end – it gives you a much better chance to win. You get more opportunities and the other guys end up being one and done.

Then you add Kyle Singler to the mix. What can you say about Kyle? You shortchange him to a degree, but you can say this guy is an excellent complementary player. What does a complementary player do? He has to do everything and he has to fit in and he has to help you with your spacing offensively, with your execution, with your shot-making, and he has to help you with fundamentally sound defense. Kyle Singler does all of those things and he does them at a level – even this early in his career – above the average complementary player. I think this guy is going to be a very significant Piston for years to come.

The Pistons clearly are an improved defensive team and for that I think you have to look hard at Jason Maxiell. The fact Lawrence Frank came in here made a world of difference to Jason.

I think Lawrence took one look and knew he had a tiger up front in Jason Maxiell who would do all the dirty work and make spectacular plays and be an effort guy night in and night out. You start a guy like Jason Maxiell, he sets the tone defensively at the very least. But he’s gone way beyond that. He’s become the anchor of the defense.

That guy, in his last three games going into our game with Golden State, has had 13 blocks. That’s better than four per – even I can do that math. And that’s not all he does. He puts bodies on people, he keeps guys away from the glass, he made Zach Randolph look ordinary and Zach is anything but. He’s the kind of guy who gives you everything he’s got, which includes some offense. He’s got a very nice touch when he lets that jumper go.

He’s always in the heat of the battle, always doing something physically to help the Pistons get another possession, and yet when he gets the ball he can gather himself and show that silky-smooth shot of his. He’s a basketball player and he’s a starter in the NBA. You can thank Lawrence Frank for that, but Jason got an opportunity and he grabbed it and made the most of it.

You add it all up and I think the Pistons are ready to take the next step. They will now start to play more consistent basketball. You expect inconsistency with a young team. You expect inconsistency with a team still trying to get totally familiar with its rotation, with its system and all of that.

But they now know they’re good enough to play with most everybody in this league and now they have to start winning some games on the road. If you play well on the road, you’re still not going to win maybe more than half of ’em unless you’re a championship-caliber team, but you’ll win your share.

That’s what I think the Pistons will start to do. You’ll see more consistency as this team evolves over the next couple of months and I think they’ll end up right where we thought – fighting for a playoff spot. If they make it, great. If they miss it by an eyelash, it’s still going to be exciting and it still shows the kind of potential they have for the future.