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DETROIT — Something special is happening with the Detroit Pistons, something that makes you think their fast start isn’t just some sort of basketball mirage.
The latest example came Tuesday night at the shiny and new Little Caesars Arena, where the Pistons now play home games and where they knocked off the Indiana Pacers by a 114-97 count.
It was a win that improved the Pistons’ record to a surprising 8-3, and that’s really only the half of it. If you remember, they recently claimed back-to-back West Coast road games — topping the Los Angeles Clippers, and then the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
This is hardly a roster littered with All-Stars, but then again, if this keeps going, they’ll get it least one. More importantly to coach Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ balance makes it so their best player would be difficult to choose.
Could it be forward Tobias Harris, who scored 23 points and finished 5-of-9 shooting on 3-pointers?
Or how about center Andre Drummond, who scored 14 points, yanked down 21 rebounds, and slammed a monster one-handed jam in the mug of Indiana’s Myles Turner?
Then there’s point guard Reggie Jackson. He casually finished with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, dishing out six assists.
Of course, you cannot forget guard Avery Bradley — who arrived in an offseason trade with the Boston Celtics and has consistently delivered defense, professionalism and a winning mentality.
For the Pistons, the early success has been the result of all of the above and more.
“You know, it’s funny because we talked about that, about everybody getting an opportunity,” Van Gundy said. “We’re only 11 games in and literally all 14 guys have made significant contributions at one point or another. Players hear it all the time — you’re going to get an opportunity and you have to stay ready. We’re only 11 games in, and it’s come true.”
Van Gundy speaks the truth. Everyone truly is making their mark.
Against the Pacers, six Pistons reached double-figures in scoring and the bench contributed 38 points, led by Langston Galloway’s 12. The Pistons also fought their way to 58 points in the paint.
“We’ve been getting points in the paint,” Van Gundy said. “We’re not at the top of the league, but we’re near.”
LONG WAY TO GO
This is pro basketball, of course, and this is November. At this time of year, things are typically a bit distorted. For instance, while the Pistons sit atop the Central Division, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are off to an uneven (some might say dreadful) 5-6 start.
So a lot can and likely will change.
And Van Gundy is a coach, which means he doesn’t get too high or too low. He knows there are always areas that could use some work.
One of those areas may be getting more consistency from Drummond. He’s been shooting free throws considerably better this season (though he was 0-for-7 on Wednesday), and has been a little more engaged by the night.
“I’ve been really happy with him,” Van Gundy said, before pulling it back a little. “But he was up and down with his energy. He has a little trouble getting out of the gate. But the second half tonight, he really turned it on.”
As for the big picture, don’t even mention it to Van Gundy. He much prefers one snapshot at a time.
“Here’s the thing, I focus on how we played tonight, where we need to improve, and that’s it,” Van Gundy said. “There are 71 games to go. You can’t get ahead yourself.”
He wasn’t finished.
“There’s no value in me predicting how many games we’re gonna win,” Van Gundy said. “You have to stick to things that are valuable. Your practices should be the same if you’re 7-3 as they would be if you’re 3-7. I’d rather be 8-3 than 3-8, but you have to remain focused as a coach and hopefully the players will do that, too.”
In Detroit these days, focus has not been in question. Neither has winning, and while early, that is giving these Pistons a reason to believe.
Sam Amico is the founder and senior writer of AmicoHoops. Follow him on Twitter @AmicoHoops.