The Detroit Pistons may have entered the All-Star break after a disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night, but the team’s turnaround has been nothing short of astonishing and thoroughly exciting.
From a 5-23 start, to waiving Josh Smith, to losing Brandon Jennings for the season, the Pistons and their fans have endured a roller coaster of a season. One player’s consistency has helped stabilize Detroit, though, and get the team on track to climb within three games of Miami and the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Greg Monroe has been a reliable force inside for the Pistons, averaging a double-double of 15.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in 52 games.
In January alone, the forward-center recorded 14 double-doubles, which tied a franchise record. Over the past week, he was crucial in the Pistons’ victories over Denver and Charlotte to keep Detroit in playoff contention.
Against the Nuggets on Feb. 6, Monroe had his first career 20/20 game, finishing with 21 points and a career-high 21 rebounds in the Pistons’ 98-88 victory.
The win and the statistical milestones were even more important to Monroe than they might have been on another night. His maternal grandmother, Althea Dixon, passed away earlier in the day in his native New Orleans.
“That was crazy,” Monroe said at the time. “This means a lot, especially after losing my grandmother. This definitely means a lot to me.”
Monroe’s effort impressed Stan Van Gundy, especially under the circumstances.
“Greg was fabulous tonight,” Van Gundy said. “He dominated. They tried to play him with smaller people, and they did a good job with their double teams, but they didn’t have anyone who could guard him.”
When Monroe was double-teamed late in the contest, he started passing the ball, including two key assists as the Pistons struggled to score in the fourth quarter.
Four nights later, Monroe had 23 points and 12 rebounds, dominating inside to help the Pistons earn a 106-78 victory over the Hornets. Monroe has recorded at least 20 points and 10 rebounds 48 times since the 2011-12 season, the most 20-10 games in the Eastern Conference during that span.
After getting off to a rough start, the Pistons are 16-10 over their last 26 games and aren’t even close to being out of playoff contention.
“We’re in the hunt right now,” Monroe said after the victory over Charlotte. “We’re jockeying for position. There are a lot of games left but these are the games with people right in front of us that mean a lot. Every game we have to come knowing that we are jockeying for position.”
No team in NBA history has ever started 5-23 or worse through 28 games and made the playoffs, but Monroe’s consistency this season has given the Pistons the opportunity to accomplish just that with 28 games remaining in the season.