Auburn Hills — Welcome to the grind, where every rebound, every loose ball and every bucket comes with blood, sweat and a little bit of skin.
The bump-and-grind Pistons have an identity now until they can get this shooting problem straight. They cannot score but they stay in games because every possession becomes a matter of life and death. That was the case Friday night during a crowd-pleasing but brutal 98-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls at The Palace.
The Pistons and Bulls did the bump-and-grind all night and well into overtime until the Pistons cold shooting turned warm.
The teams dug into each other so deeply on defense that the game was sent into overtime through a series of shot clock violations.
“It was a grind it out game,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It was a fight all the way. It was a grind, just a grind. I am proud of my guys. They are fighting hard."
The Pistons are missing shots they believe they should make. They shot 37.5 percent and made just 6 of 28 3-point shots (21.4 percent). For the season they are shooting 38.7 percent from the field and 67 percent from the free-throw line.
“Look I am in charge of the defense and my assistants. I have given them the offense and they have to do a better job,” Van Gundy joked. “That’s all it is.”
The game featured 15 lead changes and 18 ties. The biggest lead was nine points.
Late in the fourth quarter Drummond gave the Pistons an 83-81 lead with 1.40 remaining on a putback off a Reggie Jackson miss. Derrick Rose followed seconds later with a one-hander that tied it at 83.
During the final moments and into overtime the Palace crowd stood and cheered and it sounded like they were cheering for Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups back in the day. The passion for basketball poured out of Pistons fans’ souls like a fine wine.
“The biggest thing is we are fighting really hard,” Van Gundy said.
The Pistons dominated the overtime session and will remain unbeaten until at least Tuesday, when they host the Indiana Pacers.
It was a big night for Marcus Morris, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds, carried the Pistons in the third period and hit the first jumper of overtime. That was followed by Jackson’s layup, and Anthony Tolliver finished a 7-0 run with 3-point shot that caused the old building to erupt.
The Pistons have been in hibernation for nearly a decade but now awake with a 3-0 record and a big win over the Bulls (2-1) in a battle of unbeatens.
You cannot say the Pistons lack for effort. They dive on the floor, take charges and make things difficult for opponents.
A number of players besides Morris enjoyed big moments. Drummond finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds and Jackson finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“You know he (Van Gundy) is letting me play,” Morris said. “He is putting me in spots where I can be successful. He is allowing me to play my game and when he has that much confidence you get better.”
Morris said the Bulls got caught in switches and he often was up against a smaller defender.
“As a scorer I was just picking my spots,” Morris said. “Reggie did a good job of finding me. I just delivered. I am just happy to be here and show what I can do for a city with so much history.”
Morris also played solid defense. Butler scored 23 points for the Bulls but was 5-19 from the field.
Here is what you can say about the Pistons: They can’t shoot. Maybe that will change. Maybe this is who they are. The hustle helped the Pistons to a quick 15-6 lead. The lack of shooting led to a 39-35 halftime deficit.
As teammates struggled offensively Morris got hot. He hit a jumper, an up-and-under layup, a 3-point shot and a jumper off a fast break. And when he did miss, he scrambled for the ball and found Drummond for a layup.
Morris had all parts of his game humming. The Pistons definitely needed that on a night Steve Blake was 0-for-7 from the field, Ersan Ilyasova 1-for-5, Stanley Johnson was 3-for-8 and Caldwell-Pope 2-for-12.
Now the Pistons rest as one of a few unbeaten teams going through the grind.
“I love it,” Morris said. “Detroit is a lot like Philly. Every time I step on the court I feel like I am home.”