It isn’t any secret now. Riding a 7-game winning streak, the Detroit Pistons are the hottest team in the NBA. After beating the Dallas Mavericks last night, it doesn’t look to be very close. Waiving Josh Smith has flipped this team into a legitimate NBA team after being cellar dwellers for the first third or so of the season.
Even with all the good vibes surrounding the current squad, they’re still a paltry 12-23. That’s not impressive by any means if you look at the overall body of work.
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Except the Pistons are now a meager 3 games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Eastern Conference is somehow so bad a 12-23 team is looking at playoff aspirations.
During their current win streak the Pistons gained ground in the playoff standings in a big way. Before the streak, they were 7 games behind the 8 seed Brooklyn Nets. Now they’re much closer and looking at real playoff hopes.
If it wasn’t clear to the rest of the nation the Pistons were hot, now they know. These Pistons are not the same team when Smith was starting for them.
Skeptics of the Pistons before looked at their relatively weak schedule factoring into their winning streak. While it was true their opponents weren’t necessarily good it’s also true that they beat them by 18.2 PPG. That’s an impressive margin for any team.
On paper, the last two games the Pistons won had even the biggest optimists worried. A back-to-back in Texas against the defending champs in San Antonio and a hot Dallas Mavericks team? If the Pistons could split those games fans would’ve been satisfied.
Except they swept that Texas road trip in impressive fashion. After a thrilling win over the San Antonio Spurs courtesy of a Brandon Jennings buzzer beater, team morale seemed to be at an all-time high. The next night D.J. Augustin blew up in the 4th quarter with 17 points against the Mavericks.
Make no mistake about it, those are quality wins against quality teams. They fought back from 18 down in the 2nd quarter against the Spurs to steal a game. They never let the Mavs have a lead throughout the entire game.
Now there aren’t weak excuses critics can make of these Pistons. Ever since waiving Smith they’re averaging a scalding 107.9 PPG and allowing a meager 92.9 PPG. Those are some of the top marks in the league.
An encouraging sign for the Pistons is that they still fight through a game even if their 3 point ball isn’t falling. They were an inefficient 3-19 against the Spurs and still scored 105 points. They don’t live by the 3 nor do they die by the 3.
Dec 30, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Jodie Meeks (20) shoots a three pointer against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Another thing the Pistons have done well during this streak is riding their hot hand. Whether it’s Jodie Meeks going 9-12 from 3 against the Orlando Magic or Brandon Jennings swagging out they let them get their shots up.
With Smith though, the offense would become stagnant as spacing issues would persistently disrupt the flow.
An underlying factor nobody has considered as much has been the emergence of Jodie Meeks from injury. Sure the Smith waiving is getting all the news but Meeks joining the team has been crucial. The Pistons are 9-4 with him and it’s no coincidence.
First of all, he takes some shots away from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for when he struggles. Caldwell-Pope would have to play a lot of shooting guard before but that’s not the case now. Meeks also brings an added scoring threat off the bench which the Pistons have been lacking.
The underrated addition of Meeks has been a refreshing sight to the Pistons. This team finally seems to have an identity under Head Coach Stan Van Gundy. They’re getting it done on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
With how bad the Eastern Conference is the Pistons are a legitimate playoff contender. Are they a title contender? Of course not. Not yet at least. A playoff push is still 100% possible and might be a refreshing sight for Pistons fans after years of disappointment.
These aren’t the same Pistons from a few weeks ago and the rest of the NBA better know that. Their next game Friday against the Atlanta Hawks will be another test for this young squad.
Now, your thoughts. How are you enjoying this win streak? Will the Pistons be able to make the playoffs? The Pistons now have the necessary tools and new-found credibility to make a potential push.