The Warriors whupped the Pistons for the second time this season. Just like the first time, the Warriors scored 111 points, though the Pistons were at least able to trim Golden State's margin of victory from 32 in November to 18 last night. Progress!
The Warriors entered the game third in the league in scoring, and though they were riding a six-game losing streak they were also finally getting their entire lineup healthy, welcoming Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson back into the fold. Davis missed 13 games and Jackson four, but you couldn't tell from their performance against Detroit. The Pistons, of course, were playing their third game in a row without Rasheed Wallace, who's thankfully considered probable for Wednesday's tilt against the Cavs.
Watching the game, it was incredibly obvious when this game was lost. After a Carlos Delfino dunk with just under 90 seconds left in the first half, the Pistons were leading 55-50. After giving up a three-pointer to Jason Richardson, Al Harrington tied the game with 15-footer. One Chauncey Billups turnover later, Richardson put the Warriors up by two with thirty seconds left. And as if that wasn't enough, Chauncey and Flip Saunders proceeded to each get a technical -- Baron Davis hit both shots to put the Warriors up by four. After Rip Hamilton misses a jumper on the other end, Jackson hustled down for a layup with eight seconds left.
That entire exchange happened in less than a minute and a half and it resulted in an 11-point swing against the Pistons. Going from being up five to down six entering halftime clearly rattled Detroit, and all it took was a couple of quick buckets by the Warriors to start the third quarter and the Pistons were facing the dreaded double-digit deficit.
The Pistons were goaded into trying to match the Warriors' high-tempo style of play, despite the fact Golden State was finally healthy and itching to run. Detroit just couldn't keep up, certainly not defensively without Rasheed and not offensively on an off-night from the guards (Rip and Chauncey combined for 17 points, 10 assists and seven turnovers, with only one three-point attempt between the two of them). Flip Saunders could only watch from the sidelines as his troops played directly into his counterpart Don Nelson's game plan. From the Detroit Free Press:
"All of the sudden, we start throwing lob dunks, and we started to try to play like them," coach Flip Saunders said. "The game changed," he snapped his fingers, "just like that."
Instead of slowing the pace, the Pistons tried to keep up.
"That's my fault," Billups said. "I saw the tide changing a little bit, and I didn't step it up or lead the troops, so to speak, and not let it get too out of hand."
Time and again, the Pistons just failed to finish at the basket -- there was a three-possession stretch in the third quarter where they missed two layups and a floater in the paint. The Pistons scored just 16 points in the third quarter as the Warriors extended their lead to 18. By the end of the game, the Warriors finished shooting 54% from the field; Detroit, just 43%. Mission accomplished, Don Nelson.
Tayshaun Prince (18 points) was the only starter to finish with more than 11 points, in part because he and Jason Maxiell (10 points, eight boards, two steals in 33 minutes) were the only starters to play more than 27 minutes. As Natalie pointed out over at Need4Sheed, Saunders waved the white flag entering the fourth: he let Lindsey Hunter, Carlos Delfino and Flip Murray play the entire final quarter and Ronald Dupree more than six minutes. It was a smart move: you may as well limit your losses and save the starters to fight another day, especially with the grueling March schedule the rest of the way.
Lindsey Hunter made the most of his 21 minutes of action, shooting 7-13 (4-7 from beyond the arc) to finish with 20 points. Believe it or not, it was the first time he's scored 20 in a game since doing it with the Raptors in 2002. Carlos Delfino scored 11 with seven boards in 28 minutes but shot just 5-13 (38%).
If I were to gleam one positive from the game (and it's difficult to do), I suppose it was encouraging to see how well Maxiell played early in the game. He's building a solid rapport with Rip Hamilton, who fed him a couple of ripe babies on two vicious dunks in the first quarter. He didn't block any shots but is still a presence down low, even if he sometimes loses his man on defense.
If you're a Spartan fan, it may have been somewhat entertaining to see Jason Richardson play well in his homecoming, though personally I'm just happy to see him leave. Richardson clearly had a lot of friends and family in attendance (one of the guys from Golden State of Mind was at the game and ran into J-Rich's brother in the bathroom...), and he certainly put on a show, especially in the second quarter when he scored 17 of his game-high 29 points.
Fortunately, Rasheed Wallace should be back for Wednesday's game, which at least will give the Pistons a bit more defense down low. And while dealing with LeBron James is always a handful, the Cavs have suffered through problems of their own on offense, and the Pistons should have the advantage playing a predominantly half-court game.
Or at least one can hope.
Warriors 111, Pistons 93 box score [ESPN]
Warriors outrun Pistons for 2nd time this season [Detroit Free Press]
Warriors have Pistons number [Need4Sheed]
Warriors 111, Pistons 93 - We are good at math! [Golden State of Mind]
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