Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
All it took to coax offensive flow, markedly improved effort and one of the best wins of the year from the Detroit Pistons was firing the head coach.
With Maurice Cheeks canned, John Loyer took the interim reins on Monday. And through his inspiring leadership and singular brilliance as a motivator, he immediately fixed everything that was wrong with the Pistons.
OK, it wasn't quite that dramatic. But notching a 109-100 win over the visiting San Antonio Spurs was a pretty significant milestone in an otherwise disappointing season for Detroit. Loyer gets some of the credit for that, as he was visibly demonstrative on the sidelines and clearly had the Pistons pushing the ball with much more urgency than Cheeks ever mustered.
The rock moved well, players appeared loose and Brandon Jennings captained an impressive second-quarter surge that shifted the game's momentum in Detroit's favor.
And Loyer was screaming the entire time, shouting instructions and even stepping a few feet onto the court to distract Marco Belinelli on a three-point attempt.
Maybe Cheeks really was the problem in Detroit.
Then again, what we saw from the Pistons probably wasn't solely attributable to Loyer. Remember, Detroit had won four of its previous six games coming into its tilt against the Spurs; the team had been playing better during the last days of Cheeks.
Perhaps this was just a continuation of that run.
Plus, teams that see their head coach get the ax tend to summon a little extra effort in the subsequent game. It's hard to know whether that happens because they're glad he's gone, or if it's some kind of too-little, too-late tribute.
Either way, Detroit had an extra edge against the Spurs.
With less than 30 games to go, the Pistons are in a virtual tie with the Charlotte Bobcats for the No. 8 seed in the East. If they can maintain the energy they showed on Monday—and maybe even play a little defense for the first time all year—they'll be a good bet to crash the postseason party.