Edson: Pistons Are Detroit’s Best Playoff Hope

Maybe it was Saturday night’s thrilling 111-102 victory by the Detroit Pistons over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Maybe it was Sunday’s predictable loss by the Detroit Lions to the Los Angeles Rams.

Or maybe it was the Detroit Tigers decision to not offer contracts next season to their most dependable relief pitcher or their light-hitting starting catcher.

Whatever the reason, it has become clear that the Pistons are Detroit’s best playoff hope for now and the immediate future.

That’s not to discount the Detroit Red Wings, of course. After a dismal start, the Wings have shown signs of life during the last month.

But it’s the Pistons who are starting to create excitement in the Motor City.

Why? They are putting together the right ingredients for a contending team. That doesn’t mean they will contend for an NBA title this season. But they will make the playoffs and they are creating some buzz around the league.

It all started last year when the Pistons traded for all-star forward Blake Griffin to go with solid center Andre Drummond and guard Reggie Jackson.

Then during the off-season, they got rid of coach-GM Stan Van Gundy and hired the current NBA Coach-of-the-Year Dwane Casey. Casey doesn’t have a duel role – thank goodness -of GM and coach. He concentrates only on coaching. And he’s one of the better head coaches in the league.

Take Saturday’s big win over Golden State, for instance.

Griffin did what superstars are supposed to do – he came up big in a big game. He scored 18 of his team-high 26 points in the second half as the Pistons (13-7) upped their record to 5-0 on their current home stand. He also had six rebounds and five assists.

Drummond, who still can’t shoot free throws, scored 16 points and hauled down 19 rebounds. Jackson hit 6-of-12 shots from the floor and finished with 17 points and five assists.

So the Big Three did their job. And everyone else played their roles. The top role player against Golden State was the hot-and-cold Stanley Johnson. He’s always solid on the defensive end but against the Warriors he scored 19 points as the Pistons moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

But the big news is that Casey has his squad playing team defense. The Pistons have become one of the best 3-point defenses in the league and held Golden State to 6-for-26 shooting from behind the arc.

That included putting the clamps on Steph Curry, who was finally back after missing 11 games with a groin injury. He hit only 3-for-9 from 3-point range but did finish with 27 points. Kevin Durant, another of the best players in the league, had 28. But he was only 1-for-7 from beyond the arc.

So the Pistons defense and their bench were the difference. And Casey gave the crowd plenty of credit, too. He said after the game that the sold-out Little Caesars Arena pumped even more enthusiasm into his team.

Right now, his team is carrying the torch for Detroit’s post-season hopes.

Making the playoffs might sound like baby steps. But for any Detroit pro franchise, taking any steps forward right now is something to cheer about.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.