The Pistons lost another game in lopsided fashion, falling to the Houston Rockets 97-80 on Tuesday. That should surprise absoultely nobody. And sadly it won't surprise you how they lost -- poor, lazy passes that become turnovers, giving up too many rebounds, giving up too many points in the paint, taking bad shots at the absolute worst time.
What is surprising is that the Pistons were able to stay mostly competitive even though Greg Monroe struggled mightily and only ended up with 4 points in 35 minutes. At the half Monroe had zero points on 0-3 shooting. He didn't score his first points until there was 10:20 to go in the game. He also struggled defending Samuel Dalembert, who was able to get great post position for some easy baskets and tip ins. Dalembert finished with 12 rebounds and a team-high 14 points to pace the Rockets.
Coach Lawrence Frank decided to remake the starting lineup as he looks for better defense and little bit of a spark, swapping Ben Wallace for Jonas Jerebko at power forward. Frank said he wanted better defense to start games and wanted to harness Jerebko's energy off the bench. Makes sense.
Unfortunately, although Wallace was able to provide moments of vintage Big Ben D, the Pistons gave up way too many offensive rebounds and turned Wallace's blocks and forced misses into second-chance points. In the end the Pistons were outrebounded 42 to 35, but the differential is padded by some garbage time minutes that helped Detroit close the gap.
But enough about the negatives, right? A loss is really just one step closer to a great draft pick in a deep draft.
While Monroe struggled to score, he was able to be effective in other ways, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. It was not a good game for Monroe by any stretch, but if the low-end of the Moose effectiveness scale includes double-digit rebounds and a team high in assists, i'll take it.
Rookie Brandon Knight also had his hands full, matching up with Kyle Lowry. Lowry is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and also happens to be having a breakout year on the offensive end. Knight, to put it mildly, struggled. He still plays like the game is going 1,000 miles per hour, especially when he is asked to initiate the offense. Knight commited six turnovers to go with four assists, but he also showed flashes of why the organizaiton and fans are so excited about him. He scord 15 points, but got them in a different way than his usual perimeter shooting. Knight made a concious effort to get into the lane and he was able to get some easy and not so easy points in the paint.
While the Pistons gave up way too many points in the paint (47), they were able to attack on their own end and finished the night with 42 points in the paint themselves.
Also having a strong game was Ben Gordon. Gordon scored 18 points and was especially aggresive early. He blocked two shots, had three steals and played pesky defense all night. Tayshaun Prince led all scorers with 20 points, including buzzer beaters to end the second and third quarters.
Last, and certainly not least, was Rodney Stuckey. I'm not sure if the Pistons envision him as a scorer off the bench or a starting two-guard long term, but tonight he played his bench role perfectly. He looked to score when the option presented itself and also helped settle down the offense some when Knight was getting rattled. Stuckey scored 16 points on 6-11 shooting, including 2 of 4 from 3-point land, and was the only Pistons player with a positive +/- differential.
But in the end it is the same problems that continue to plague Detroit, and it puts Frank in a tough spot. The Pistons are playing lazy and they are playing sloppy. They are also relying on a rookie at point guard and a sophomore at center, who also happens to get the most offensive touches. Following the dreadful John Kuester years, the players have developed a losing culture and some lackadaisical habits. Frank has to thread the needle of making everyone accountable for their mistakes while also keeping harmony within the locker room, and helping his young players learn and get better.