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Let's forget for a moment the Pistons two-game losing streak. Let's put aside the season-ending Achilles tendon injury to guard Brandon Jennings, which could bring an end to the Pistons happy story.

The Pistons are playing their best basketball during what is considered the dog days of the NBA. This is a time where injuries creep in. It is a time where mental fatigue is almost as bad as physical breakdowns.

The weather is cold. The days are gray and there is no light to signal the end of the long 82-game journey.

Look at the Chicago Bulls. This is a team that needed a team meeting to address why it ran out of energy. There is sniping between players, the front office and coaching staff. They tried to remedy it with the dreaded team meeting.

"I don't think that is an issue for us because of what we are fighting back from," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I think it is a tough stretch of games we went through, but I don't think we have an approach that we are going through the dog days. I do not think we are dragging."

Fresh start

The Pistons began the season 5-23 and the season appeared all but lost. They battled back to within a game of the final playoff spot. It was as if the entire organization got an adrenaline boost after the release of Josh Smith. You can make a point that the season for the Pistons began a month ago, not three months ago.

This is a new team with a new purpose.

Now comes the second hurdle. How does it get along without Jennings? The point guard position is the most important job on the floor. And Jennings finally got it. He set aside the "me-first" guy that was agonizing to watch at times.

He turned into a new man. His performance against Orlando was magical. The 24 points were a plus but the big thing was the 21 assists. He made the game look easy as he whipped the ball to open teammates like a yo-yo on a string.

That is what the Pistons were searching for when they got him from Milwaukee. And that is what they will be missing for the rest of the season.

D.J Augustin filled in nicely with 35 points during a 114-110 loss Monday night at Toronto. However, the true measurement long term for Augustin is not how many points he scores but how many opportunities he provides for teammates.

The Cavs and have-nots

Tuesday is a critical test in determining the mindset of the Pistons after Jennings. They've had time to digest his loss and the improving Cleveland Cavaliers come to town. It is a team that has struggled but is more dangerous as the pieces begin to fit.

The Cavs (25-20) also hold down one of those coveted playoff berths that the Pistons want. It is not make-or-break for the season but a nice barometer.

It is especially difficult to deal with a season-ending injury this time of season. Andre Drummond believes it will be easier because the Pistons are set up differently. It is not about logging long minutes or one guy carrying the team every night. There are different heroes and Van Gundy has done a good job of spreading minutes around.

Let's go back to Chicago. Tom Thibodeau is a wonderful coach but players complain that he was wearing them down.

"We have young legs on our team," Drummond said. "There is nobody playing 45 minutes a game. The amount of minutes we are playing allows us to be fresh for the next game. Stan has done a good job of getting the hard part out of the way early in the season. He did the working and teaching earlier in the season to the point of where now we know. It is a refresher in practice so we can get to the next play."

Now comes the next step. Is there still energy following life without Jennings?

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/TerryFoster971

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