Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock have changed the dynamic of the Detroit Pistons’ starting lineup — at least in the short run.
The Pistons have become a grittier, more defensive-minded team with that duo in the starting lineup. They led the defensive effort in the closing moments of a 104-101 victory over New York on Friday, Detroit’s last outing. The Knicks came up empty on their last four possessions as Detroit erased a four-point deficit.
Tolliver, a power forward, and Bullock, a swingman, will likely be in the starting five again when the Pistons face Central Division rival Indiana on Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
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“We both just want to win,” Tolliver said. “We’re very selfless people, whether it be big shots, playing defense, diving on loose balls, or taking charges. We’re both willing to do those type of things to help the team win. Things are going decent with us in our starting lineup and neither one of us care, though. It’s not really what we care about, we care about the end result. If that’s going to help us get a win at the end of the day, that’s what we want to do.”
Following a seven-game skid, the Pistons (18-14) have won four of their last five. Starting shooting guard Avery Bradley has missed the last four games with a groin injury and will be sidelined once again Tuesday.
Once he returns, Tolliver or Bullock will return to a reserve role. Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson are entrenched in the starting lineup.
The Pistons’ victory Friday was a response to a woeful effort at Dallas two nights earlier, when the Mavericks blew them out 110-93.
“Taking that loss in Dallas, it hurt,” Drummond said. “We didn’t play with any energy in that second half, and we allowed them to get a good run. That’s not who we are.”
Because of a quirk in the schedule, the Pistons and Pacers (19-14) will be meeting for the final time this season. They’ve already faced each other three times, with Detroit holding a 2-1 edge. In the most recent meeting on Dec. 15 at Indiana, Drummond powered for 23 points and 13 rebounds in a 104-98 Pistons victory.
Indiana has won its last two games, including a 123-119 overtime victory over Brooklyn on Saturday. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo poured in 38 points. That was his second 38-point outing in three games. Oladipo now ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 25.3 points per game.
“He should be an All-Star starter. I think he deserves it,” backcourt partner Darren Collison told the Indianapolis Star. “Since Day 1, he’s been the leader that we’ve asked him to be. He should be a starter.”
The Pacers home fans have taken their appreciation for Oladipo’s exploits to another level, chanting “MVP” during his recent scoring explosion.
“It’s pretty fun,” center Myles Turner told the Star. “We’re right there along with him. We tell Vic, ‘Just go man.’ He plays with so much energy, so much pop.”