AUBURN HILLS — In their last two games, the Detroit Pistons have gotten wrecked by a terrible team and routed a good one.
That’s pretty much how life goes for Stan Van Gundy these days.
Two days after a 21-point loss to the hapless Milwaukee Bucks – a team that had lost its previous three games by an average of 27 points – the Pistons came out and wrecked the Miami Heat, a team that had won six of seven and boasted the league’s No. 2 defense.
“We were upset about what happened in Milwaukee, and we had something to prove tonight,” Reggie Jackson said after Detroit’s 104-81 victory. “We can’t shoot like that every night, but we can play tough defense and we can hustle. Those are the things that we did tonight that we didn’t do against the Bucks.”
Van Gundy hadn’t been happy with his team’s effort since a 5-1 start, but things reached a nadir when they got embarrassed by former teammate Greg Monroe and the Bucks.
“In the first six games, we were competing for 48 minutes every night, but as our West Coast trip went on, we started competing in spurts,” he said in his postgame press conference after the Bucks game. “Tonight, we didn’t even do that. We didn’t compete at all.”
Against Miami, it was a different story, as the Pistons put up 60 first-half points against one of the league’s best defenses. Van Gundy said before the game that he expected an effort, but he didn’t know he’d get what he did.
“This is a competitive group of guys, and I knew they were angry about what happened in Milwaukee,” he said. “I didn’t know we were going to hit six threes in the second quarter – there’s no way of knowing that – but I knew we would play hard.”
The first good sign for the Pistons was when Andre Drummond started attacking shots – something that he doesn’t always do.
“You always hear about leaders who talk to their teammates about playing hard, but I say the hell with that,” Van Gundy said. “To me, a leader is someone who goes out and plays hard and his teammates follow him. That’s what Andre did in the first quarter – he was aggressive against the shooters, even though he still had to guard against lobs to (Hassan) Whiteside.”
Drummond finished with a season-high five blocks to go along with 18 points and 20 rebounds.
“We had a talk yesterday at practice about me not challenging shots, so I made that a job tonight,” he said. “I was going after everything, knowing my teammates would have my back against the lob.”
The 22-year-old has four of the NBA’s five 20-rebound games this seasons, with Dwight Howard the only other player to get one.
Van Gundy, though, wasn’t going to let his team take credit for all of Miami’s woes.
“We got a little lucky tonight,” he said. “I think Miami had the same kind of night that we had in Milwaukee, and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
No one in a Miami uniform struggled more than Dwyane Wade, who scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes – the lowest output of his career in a game where he played at least 20 minutes.
“I just sucked tonight,” Wade said. “Give Detroit credit, because they came out to win this game, and they were very focused, but individually, I just sucked.”
Van Gundy praised Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s defense against Wade, especially while he was going through a 2-for-15 shooting night himself, but didn’t think that was what stopped his former player.
“Dwyane has scored a lot of points for me and a lot of points against me, so I know what he’s capable of doing,” he said. “Give KCP credit – he played really, really hard against him – but I’ve seen a lot of guys play really, really hard against Dwyane and still give up 30-plus.
“Dwyane has scored 50 against me, and we were playing hard against him that night, too. We just caught a break tonight.”
Detroit flies to Oklahoma on Thanksgiving afternoon for a Friday game against the Thunder, but which team will show up? That’s the mystery Van Gundy has to deal with every night.