February 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Vincent Goodwill

Pistons could use a tough guy to add some grit

Reserve guard Will Bynum showed the tenacity against the Pacers - and received a one-game suspension for overzealous play - that is otherwise lacking on the Pistons. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)

Auburn Hills -- Battered, bruised and deflated.

That's the feeling Indiana gave Detroit in their home-and-home, which saw the Pacers beat up their Central foe by a total of 50 points —which almost is unheard of.

"They just had our number from start to finish," reserve guard Will Bynum said. "No other way to look at it."

Bynum was one of the few who played with both spunk and effectiveness in Saturday's 90-72 loss, the lesser of the two beatings.

He single-handedly brought the Pistons back in the second quarter when it looked like they were headed to another embarrassing loss. And when Tyler Hansbrough's physical play went from chippy to over the line, Bynum caught him with a shot to the stomach, resulting in an ejection. (And later, a one-game suspension.)

Otherwise, the Pistons couldn't match the Pacers' physicality — or the Grizzlies', as those two play a hard-nosed style that makes up for their lack of superstar talent.

"This is a very good lesson for us in terms of what playoff basketball is like," coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's a grind."

Help wanted

Being six games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot, it's a grind — and the Pistons most likely will miss out for the fourth straight year. But these losses could provide a blueprint to the future.

The Pistons could stand to be what the Pacers are. Despite the Pacers' relative lack of playoff success, they have an identity. When they walk in, you'd better be ready to fight. And if you're not equipped or willing, you'll get punked.

"That's their style, the way that they play," Bynum said. "Evidently, it works for them."

Tayshaun Prince even said, after the Grizzlies overcame an early deficit to handily beat the Pistons on Tuesday, what the book is on his old team.

"I told the guys that with the new team they got, with (Jose) Calderon, look for them to start fast from the get-go," Prince said. "Try to push the ball, run our bigs a little bit."

In other words, handle the early storm, because they aren't tough enough to sustain the start. It's not that the Pistons are soft. They just simply aren't at the Pacers' level, with mentality and personnel.

Go with West

It hasn't happened overnight, the Pacers' transformation. They've had to endure plenty of changes to overcome five straight losing seasons. This will be their first full season above .500 since 2005.

Their climb from the doldrums began when they signed forward David West after the lockout. His numbers don't jump off the page, but he's changed the culture from a young team with talent to a team nobody wants to tangle with in a seven-game series.

His toughness instills confidence in everybody else, and despite Hansbrough's posturing and agitating, West is the feared player in that locker room and on the floor. West once put his finger in the face of Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki in the 2008 playoffs, and no Mavericks player dared to try him.

West, along with the emerging Paul George are reasons why many feel the only test the Heat will face before getting to the Finals will be the Pacers.

West, 32, will be a coveted free agent this summer, one the Pacers will try to keep. But initially, it wasn't viewed as a culture-changer.

The Pistons are one of a few teams with precious cap space to sign free agents and facilitate trades. And while most folks are begging for a superstar, preferably on the wings, it's clear what they truly need.

They need a David West, and should probably send him a thank-you note for the lesson.

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com

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