The spacing is better on the court, at least. It’ll take some time before the seats get overly crowded. And it’ll take more than a win or two from the Pistons, given what they’ve done here the last several years. But Wednesday night’s home opener, though hardly a thing of beauty, certainly was no buzzkill as the Pistons shook off a slow start, ignored some tired legs and managed to beat one of the league’s better defensive teams at its own game in the final minute, fending off the Utah Jazz, 92-87, at The Palace. That’s two wins in two nights for Stan Van Gundy’s retooled roster. And while it’s also too soon to say much about what any of this means, it’s an encouraging start, nonetheless. “I think anytime you win, your confidence grows,” Van Gundy said. “And your trust in each other grows.” And trust me, the growth isn’t hard to see here, whether it’s Andre Drummond hitting his free throws (8-for-11) or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope making winning plays at both ends of the court late or newcomer Marcus Morris asserting himself with consecutive solid performances. The way his team played down the stretch Wednesday certainly left the Pistons coach with something to grumble about. Besides the NBA schedule matrix that handed his team a back-to-back to begin the season, that is. But Van Gundy couldn’t argue with the effort, or the intensity. “This team has a lot of fight,” Drummond said. “We’ve got a lot of fighters.” Early challenges They fought themselves as they coughed up an 86-80 lead in the final few minutes, committing turnovers on three of four possessions. Van Gundy, whose team is shooting 39 percent from the field thus far, blamed himself for not being assertive enough from the bench on one of those. But then he asked his floor leader, Reggie Jackson, to assert himself on the next. And Jackson responded, freed by Drummond’s screen for a driving layup with 17 seconds left that put the Pistons back up, 88-87. Caldwell-Pope’s rebound and two free throws with 9.4 seconds left — and his blocked shot of an Alec Burks 3-pointer shortly after — helped seal the deal, sparking fist pumps and screams from his teammates. “I like the character we’ve shown,” Van Gundy said. “I like the attitude we’ve had in games even when things haven’t gone well.” But that they’ve ended well? Well, that’s kind of a big deal, the small sample size notwithstanding. Not just because this is the Pistons’ first 2-0 start since 2008-09, the last year they made the playoffs. Or because these two wins came on the road against an Atlanta team that won 60 games last season and at home against a Utah team that’ll contend for a playoff spot in the West. But also because the Pistons are facing a daunting early schedule. Chicago is in town Friday, followed by Indiana and then a six-game trip out west. In fact, 10 of the Pistons’ 15 games in November are on the road. “So we knew what this first part of the season was gonna be,” Van Gundy said. And they know they simply can’t afford another miserable start. The Pistons were 3-14 by the time December rolled around last season. Two years ago, they were 6-10. In 2012, they were 5-12 after an 0-8 start. In 2010 and ’11 they were 6-12.
Pistons beat Jazz show grit, character in 2-0 start
Detroit News | Oct 29