Surging Pistons not concerned with playoffs
AUBURN HILLS — The Detroit Pistons aren’t a playoff team yet, and Stan Van Gundy doesn’t care.
He’s only concerned with Monday afternoon.
"I told our team that we’re 16-25 halfway through the season, so it doesn’t make any sense to think about the playoffs right now," he said after Saturday’s 107-89 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. "Besides, thinking about the playoffs doesn’t help you win games. You don’t need to be worrying about the standings or who else is winning or what you need to do in the next 41 games.
"You need to be thinking about how to stop the pick and roll and what to do on the next offensive set and how much you need to hustle down the court. Do those things, and the wins and the standings will take care of themselves."
Van Gundy was full of praise for his young team, which went 6-2 in a stretch of eight games in 12 days.
"That’s huge for a team like this one, because it shows them that they can do it," he said. "We’ve basically practiced once in 12 days, so the guys did have three full days off in that stretch. It’s not really about physical fatigue at that point, it is about being able to fight off the mental fatigue of having to get yourself ready to play every day, game after game. That’s the tough part."
The Pistons sustained embarrassing losses to Philadelphia the last two times the teams met — the first one ending the Sixers’ 26-game losing streak in March and the second last month giving them just their second win in 20 games.
This time, though, despite the tough stretch of games, Van Gundy’s team was ready. They hit their first five shots to take a 13-4 lead in the opening three minutes and the 76ers never got back into the game.
"We played with great energy from the beginning of the game," said Greg Monroe, who finished with a double-double. "The ball was moving and guys were hot from behind the arc early. We have to keep playing with that kind of effort."
Things aren’t going to get any easier for the Pistons, though. After a much-needed day off on Sunday, the Pistons play a Martin Luther King Day matinee against the Atlanta Hawks, who have won 26 of their last 28 games.
"There’s not much you can say about a team that is playing .800 basketball halfway through the season," Van Gundy said. "They are a great team, and they are only getting better, so we are going to need our best effort — one we didn’t get when we played them here — to have a chance to beat that team."
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