Detroit News' Rod Beard breaks down team's win over previously unbeaten L.A. Clippers.
Los Angeles — The Pistons notched their best win of the season Saturday night, 95-87, overcoming a 13-point margin in the third quarter and holding the Los Angeles Clippers to six points in the final six minutes.
The Clippers were the last unbeaten team in the NBA and ranked among the top teams in offensive and defensive rating — yet the Pistons were able to put the clamps down and end their streak of road losses to the Clippers, which extended back to Nov. 12, 2010.
The Pistons next face the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night on a back-to-back before finishing the road trip back in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Tuesday.
Before Monday’s loss to Philadelphia, I wrote on Twitter that if the Pistons could get three wins in their next five games, they’d make a bold statement about where they stand in the NBA echelon. They beat the Timberwolves handily and the victory over the Clippers is a big confidence booster. Getting another win Sunday against the Warriors will be tough, but the Lakers game looks like a chance to get three out of five.
Detroit center talks about getting a victory in the Staples Center for the first time since 2010.
Here are five observations on the Pistons’ surprising start to the season:
The new Drummond: After an admittedly subpar season last year, Drummond has opened as an efficient and smarter player on both ends of the floor. Gone are the maddening hook shots from outside the paint and the inexplicable defensive lapses. He’s been on point and in position and staying in a reasonable range of offensive looks, mostly putbacks and easy action off pick-and-rolls and dribble-handoffs. Clearly, there’s a new level of maturity to his game and understanding where he fits best in the offense.
The Tolliver effect: Anthony Tolliver looked to be relegated to spot duty on the bench, with the emergence of Henry Ellenson. Not so fast. Tolliver came up big on the defensive end last Saturday against Kristaps Porzingis in the win over the Knicks and last night in defending Blake Griffin. Tolliver will never be the biggest or strongest player on the floor, but he’s using his veteran savvy to carve himself a niche. While coach Stan Van Gundy still is trying to sort out the bench, he’s realizing that Tolliver has a definite role among the reserves, especially when Ellenson struggles.
Reggie’s back: Much like Drummond, Reggie Jackson is playing more under control and not choking time off the shot clock with excessive dribbling. His defense is the most improved area of his game, where he is competing better and getting through screens. His midrange game is back, and although the 3-pointers aren’t falling yet, he’s pushing the pace in transition as Ish Smith looks to find a good rhythm off the bench. There aren’t any issues with the knee tendinitis, which is the best sign of all for the Pistons.
Bench mob: Every game, another new member of the reserves corps seems to save the Pistons. Tolliver has done it well, but Langston Galloway has done it consistently. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter Saturday, keying the comeback effort. He’s an unsung hero, but he’s just what the Pistons need — scoring punch off the bench. Galloway isn’t afraid to let the ball fly, and so far, it’s been a good return on a seemingly cheap investment in free agency.
New thought process: The coaching staff broke down the team’s offense and retooled it to fit the players they had. Van Gundy did a nice job of bringing in some good 3-point shooters and catering the plays they run to the personnel. They don’t run as much pick-and-roll and the defensive disposition — one of Van Gundy’s new catch phrases — is much more noticeable. The Pistons can get out in transition and score well, with enhanced ball movement. According to the MOET Index (My Own Eye Test), it’s one of the biggest difference in their 4-2 start over last season.