When Maurice Cheeks stepped out of his team’s locker room to meet with media after a draining overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, you couldn’t tell from the wide eyes and near smile that his team squandered what could’ve been a sure win on the road.

Cheeks looked as if he’d discovered something he wasn’t quite sure of — like a father who just found out his oldest son could handle himself in a treacherous environment. The smile indicated he gained a measure of respect for the 12 men in the locker room.

“It was a good game,” Cheeks said. “As I told our guys, this was the Western Conference (finalists) last year and we were right there with them.

It was the Pistons’ 19th straight road loss to a Western Conference opponent, and if we’re counting road wins against quality, playoff-caliber competition, you’d be better off pulling up basketball-reference.com as opposed to your mental Rolodex, because it’s been that long.

“It’s gonna end, I guarantee you,” Cheeks said with a smile. “I liked our game, man. I liked our effort. Fun game, man. Fun.”

Right time to learn

The Pistons surely made mistakes that can keep players up at night if this were in April or a playoff game.

Chauncey Billups missed a couple free throws he usually makes, and the Pistons had 19 turnovers, 12 of them coming from Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Will Bynum. But there was no despair in the locker room.

It’s November, not April and these lessons are the easiest to learn.

"I think it's very safe, even early, to say that this won't be the same as it's been the last four years, man,” Billups said. “That's very apparent already. We're going to compete every night. We're going to compete every single night and at least have a chance to win."

Contrast it to the first game of the tumultuous 2010-11 season, with a much different cast of characters and with the ill-equipped John Kuester on the sideline. The Pistons lost a seven-point lead with 1:40 to go against the New Jersey Nets on opening night.

The locker room was as quiet as a morgue. Even Pistons president Joe Dumars, who’s never been the outward type publicly, looked dejected as he sat in an adjoining room afterward. For as much as players preach the “one game at a time” mantra, it was an early sign the season wasn’t going to go as planned.

The Pistons lost their first five games, and as many fans can recall, it was arguably the most drama-filled season in their history.

Even last season, when the Pistons suffered their worst loss since 1995 in San Antonio, a 39-point whipping, Bynum was asked could things get any worse.

“I don’t know; we still have 20 games left,” he said, without a hint of sarcasm.