The Detroit Pistons have seemingly found their stride, winning all four games since waiving Josh Smith.
While they feel team chemistry has improved, it hasn’t hurt that they haven’t been playing the upper echelon of teams.
Before the schedule takes a major turn, the Pistons seemingly have a good chance of recording their longest winning streak in more than four years Sunday when they host a Sacramento Kings team they’ve dominated.
After winning five of its first 28 games before Smith was released, Detroit (9-23) has won its last four by an average of 18.0 points. The Pistons are averaging 12.6 points more than they did before the shake-up and are allowing 12.1 fewer.
A big reason for Detroit’s sudden turnaround is its thriving from 3-point range, connecting on 43.9 percent during the win streak after starting the season at 33.0 percent. Brandon Jennings was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and finished with 29 points in Friday’s 97-81 victory over New York.
Jodie Meeks is 16 of 24 from 3-point range during the win streak.
"We were struggling at first, obviously, but we’ve got a couple of wins under our belt and now we’re just playing freely and playing with confidence," Meeks told the Pistons’ official website. "The ball gets easy to shoot, easier to pass when you win."
Aside from last Sunday’s win over an inconsistent Cleveland team missing Kyrie Irving, the other victories on Detroit’s run have come over sub-.500 teams – Indiana, Orlando and the Knicks.
There won’t be nearly as many favorable matchups over the next week.
After this game, the Pistons visit San Antonio on Tuesday and are in Dallas the next night. They have Thursday off before starting another back-to-back with home games against Atlanta and Brooklyn followed by a trip to Toronto on Monday.
"Is it sustainable?" coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I doubt we’ll go undefeated the rest of the way. But it is sustainable for us to play good basketball."
Extending their win streak to five for the first time since Dec. 4-12, 2009, certainly seems possible against the Kings (14-19), who have allowed an average of 111.7 points over a nine-game stretch in which each opponent has reached the century mark.
The last time they didn’t let a team hit triple digits was Dec. 13, when the Pistons won 95-90 in Sacramento for their ninth victory in the last 10 meetings. Detroit’s four-game winning streak over the Kings is its longest active win streak over a single opponent.
Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 21 points in the first meeting – 6.6 more than his team-leading average – and Detroit held Sacramento to 35.5 percent shooting. Darren Collison had a season-low three points on 1-of-10 shooting and Rudy Gay missed 16 of 22 shots for the Kings, who played without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins because of viral meningitis.
Collison and Gay each scored 21 and Cousins added 19 in Thursday’s 110-107 victory over Minnesota, Sacramento’s third win in nine games since coach Michael Malone was fired. That win over the Western Conference-worst Timberwolves halted the Kings’ six-game road losing streak.
"We feel good about this win, we needed a win bad," said coach Tyrone Corbin, who had the interim label removed from his job status on Wednesday.
Corbin decided to start Derrick Williams over Jason Thompson and the move paid off. Williams stepped up with 17 points and hit 3 of 6 3-pointers in his first start of the season.
"At the end of the day, it’s good for our team and good for our chemistry," Williams said. "We needed it."