The Detroit Postons aren't themselves these days. They're winning games, four of the last six, and they are no longer to be snickered at or pitied. They scrap and claw and get the most from their marginal talent.
The Bullets had a fairly easy time in two earlier meetings this season, but the team that comes into Capital Centre for an 8 o'clock game tonight is not the one the Bullets know.
These Pistons play pressure defense and never stop hustling.
They have had many injuries, but Coach Scotty Robertson doesn't complain.
He merely turns to his bench of no-names.
Detroit's leading scorer, John Long, and second-leading scorer and top rebounder, Kent Benson, are injured and didn't make the trip here. The Pistons were ready to activate Bob McAdoo for the first time this season but he suffered a new injury, a strained arch.
"We can't worry about who isn't here. We just go with what we have and so far no one has disappointed me," Robertson said.
The revamped Pistons start former Bullet Larry Wright, signed as a free agent three weeks ago at the playmaking guard spot, and former Mackin High School and Villanova star Keith Herron at shooting guard. Terry Tyler and Phil Hubbard are the forwards and Paul Mokeski is replacing Benson at center.
Hubbard and Herron have been the most impressive lately.
Hubbard drew his first start six games ago when Greg Kelser bruised his thigh, and now Kelser bruised his thigh, and now Kelser can't get back in the lineup. In those six games, the 6-foot-8 Hubbard average 20.5 points and 12 rebounds and went to the foul line 64 times.
The Pistons have always hoped for big things from Hubbard, but Herron has been a surprise.
Originally a Portland second-round draft choice in 1978, Herron was released by the Trail Blazers and later the Atlanta Hawks. He played in Belgium last season and signed with the Pistons as a free agent. He has split his time between guard and forward, and at 6-6 has been effective in both positions.
Herron started the last seven games and averaged 19.7 points. He has made 24 consecutive free throws.
Wright was with the Pistons two days before he started his first game and is still getting in shape. He is shooting only 36 percent and averaging 5.8 points a game.
As an indication of how scrappy the Pistons are, they have held opponents under 100 points 11 times this season. They did that only eight times all last year.
They also lead the NBA in steals (12 a game) and in forcing turnovers (25 a game). They forced the New Jersey Nets into a league-record 41 turnovers two weeks ago.
That type of play usually spells doom for the Bullets. Their ball-handling woes cost them another game Wednesday night, 128-115. They couldn't handle the pressure from the Indiana Pacer guards and their two-game winning streak ended.
The Bullets had 20 points and eight rebounds from Mitch Kupchak.