Foster: Pistons enjoy weight of Smith off shoulders

Terry Foster
The Detroit News
Josh Smith's new home is with the Houston Rockets.

How many times do you see the Pistons jumping up and down with their eyes closed in glee after an emotional road victory?

How many times do you see a dumb lineup change pay off?

How many times do you hear a delicious four-letter word play out on television and Twitter lights up in delight and not anguish?

We saw it unfold Tuesday night in San Antonio after the Pistons beat the Spurs 105-104 when Brandon Jennings kissed the glass with a high floater in the final second to overcome a one-point deficit. He was in the game because coach Stan Van Gundy allowed him to finish although Jennings was mostly garbage this night and backup D.J. Augustin was gold.

No one is complaining because it worked.

And did you hear the final defensive play called by Van Gundy?

"Just form a bleeping wall."

I can't wait for the T-shirts to come out.

It was the Pistons sixth straight victory. The first five were by an average of 18.2 points a game but this might have been the biggest. It came in San Antonio against the defending champion Spurs, who were a little short-handed and quite often were short on many of their free throws down the stretch.

Now I want to shout the winning phrase that the Pistons refuse to.

Addition by subtraction.

Did you notice who did not celebrate with the Pistons Tuesday night? It was Josh Smith who was released by the team and later signed by the Houston Rockets. The Pistons paid the man $27 million to disappear and the move has been worth every penny.

Ever since he left the Pistons have been looser and have played with more confidence and energy.

Meanwhile the Rockets lack energy since acquiring Smith. He lost his starting job after five games with the Rockets.

That is remarkable considering he scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds coming off the bench in his first game with the Rockets. After that he shot 28 percent from the floor, averaged 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds as a starter.

So now we have a double whammy. In Detroit, we have addition by subtraction and in Houston they have subtraction through addition. This new math is really difficult to explain.

Van Gundy won't use the term addition through subtraction because he does not want to pile on Smith while he is gone. He simply says he wanted to create more scoring opportunities for other people without Smith. That is partially true. But he also fixed the unfixable log jam of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Smith.

They all belonged on the low block. But you had Smith outside jacking up threes and long two-point shots. By the way, he has missed 12 of 14 three-point shots since joining the Rockets.

"I did not say we are going to get better (after releasing Smith)," Van Gundy said. "It was going to provide more scoring opportunities for other guys and that is what we wanted to have happen and that will continue to happen regardless. "

During this streak the Pistons have averaged 107.6 points a game. They averaged 94.4 points with Smith.

No one has benefited more than Jennings, who has averaged 20.1 points per game and shot 51 percent from the field.

I saw the guy before he left on this road trip and Jennings could not stop smiling. This team is different now. It is like the weight of the world is off their shoulders. They are no longer embarrassments that take bad shots and play questionable defense.

They are a fun team to watch now without Smith.

The Pistons won't say it. But I will.

This is a classic case of addition through subtraction. Too bad the Pistons waited so late to make this winning move.

tfoster@detroitnews.com

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