Auburn Hills — In the wake of the Pistons’ bench putting up 63 points Wednesday night in Detroit’s 110-87 trouncing of the Bucks, Stan Van Gundy admitted he made an error in evaluating his rotation when he went away from Eric Moreland for the better part of a month and a half.
Moreland had career-highs against Milwaukee with 10 points and 12 rebounds. He also added six assists in 21 minutes, the most playing time he’s received since early January.
In February, Moreland didn’t play on five occasions over a period of 11 games. Only once during that span did he receive double-digit minutes (11 against Charlotte).
“We’ve decided that we wanted to play (Moreland) more in the rotation,” Van Gundy said at practice on Thursday. “I think it’s been one of the mistakes that I’ve made is not playing him. We’ve missed his energy.”
As well as Stanley Johnson played in a starring role off the bench against the Bucks, it was Moreland who really started to turn the tide in a close game in the second quarter. He was able to create extra possessions on the offensive glass, find open teammates for quality shots and look for his own offense.
Now, the question Van Gundy has is whether Moreland can keep up that kind of pace.
“(He) hadn’t played a lot of minutes in a long time and he came in wanting to prove that he could play,” Van Gundy said. “Now the key is, if he’s in there, will he bring the same energy Friday, Saturday, Monday? It’s harder to do it night after night and get yourself in that frame of mind. It’s easier to do when you’re trying to prove that you should get minutes. That’s the challenge.”
Moreland thinks he’s up to the task.
“I just have to bring as much energy as I can,” he said. “(Van Gundy) throwing me in there – I want to make sure I give him my utmost effort and make some plays going down the stretch.”
If the big man from Oregon State can continue to give the Pistons quality minutes, it will also open the door for Van Gundy to give his starting frontcourt a little more rest, thus making Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin more effective as the Pistons try to make a playoff push.
“Playing four big guys instead of three allows us to keep guys minutes down and keep greater energy up on the floor,” Van Gundy said. “All the games right now are important. We have to win.”
PISTONS AT MAGIC
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Amway Center, Orlando
TV/radio: FSD/104.3 FM
Outlook: It’s the first game for the Pistons (29-32) on their Florida two-step. The Pistons and Magic have split their two meetings this season. The Pistons sit three games behind a Miami team they play on Saturday for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Orlando (18-43) has lost seven straight and is tied with Sacramento for the worst record in the NBA.