Surely, by now you've already read what went down two nights ago. The Pistons scored 55 first half points (28 in the first and 27 in the second) and only scored 32 points in the second half. They led by 13 at the half and were winning by as many as 14-points in the third quarter. Yet somehow they found a way to lose by eight in the end.
So how did it happen?
We can cop out and say that the Pistons simply wore down, which I guess, could have definitely beeen the case. The Pistons have three major players out with injuries (a problem all season) and were playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road. However, I'm not willing to go through an entire season letting them get off the hook on the "injury bug" and "tired (because of the injuries)" excuses when they've proven before that it's not crippling them as much as one might think it should or would. For instance, take a look at that Denver game a week ago. It was the second game of a back-to-back against a Western Conference powerhouse, minus four of the better players on the roster. The Pistons controlled that game and won. This was the same Pistons team that played that night -- plus Will Bynum.
What stood out to me Wednesday was the Pistons lack of ball movement in the fourth quarter. At the three minute mark in the third quarter, Detroit had a remarkable 21 assists. They were well on their way to 28-30 assists, which is unheard of territory for the Pistons this season. Want to know how many assists the Pistons finished with? 22. The Pistons had just six second half assists compared to the (doing the math in my head, uh) 16 assists in the first half. If that's not a glaring statistic, I don't know what is.
And then there is the play of Rodney Stuckey. It has become increasingly clear that the Pistons go as Stuckey goes. When he puts up a solid game shooting and doesn't need roughly 20+ shots to do it, the Pistons tend to do well (Pistons are 7-2 when he shoots 50% or higher on less than 20 attempts from the field. They are 2-5 when he shoots 20+ times at all). It's not some groundbreaking discovery that the Pistons have a better chance of winning when their starting guard plays well. However, critiquing his play continuously resurfaces because he, time and time again, resorts to the style of play that makes him play poorly and in turn, hurts the Pistons.
On Wednesday night, Stuckey took nine shots in the fourth quarter alone (he made three of those). In the final minutes, he forced three (missed) shots and had a bad turnover that led to a Hornets basket, which gave them a four point lead. This isn't a box score statistic, but I cringed all three times Stuckey went up with those final shot attempts.
In Stuckey's defense, the rest of the Pistons weren't really helping. The only source of offense was Charlie Villanueva, and he missed all of his shot attempts (four) in the fourth quarter (which was a double whammy because David West was still scoring on him on the other side). Even if Stuckey was feeling the pressure of needing to carry the offensive load, I still would like to see less painfully obvious, forced shots from him and more dishes after the initial penetration.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Pistons were presented with serious match up problems the past two games in Luis Scola and David West. Take this bit from Patrick Hayes at MLIVE:
The frontcourt defense is broken. The simple answer is to put Ben Wallace on the opposing team's best big every game, which works great against back-to-the-basket players like Dwight Howard.
Having Ben guard players like West and Scola, however, pulls him out of the paint, takes away the shot-blocking threat and allows guys like Aaron Brooks and Chris Paul to get into the lane at will.
Patrick goes on to add that the "opposing PFs/Cs have shot a combined 42-for-65 (65 percent) against Detroit over the last two games," which has a lot to do with the opposing guards getting into the lane at will and creating easy baskets for their bigs. Scola and West combined for 55 points, more than Villanueva/Wallace combined for in both games (I used CV because he's playing the starter minutes).
The Pistons will finish off this three game road trip with the Thunder before going home to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Sunday. Let's hope we see a steady game this time around and end the road woes. It would certainly help to get some guys back from injuries, but ultimately, this team is capable of winning regardless.
A few thoughts after the jump.
- A large chunk of the assists (nine) came from Will Bynum on Wednesday. There's no denying his individual points production is sorely missed, so let's hope those new shoes are starting to feel comfortable.
- After seeing what Jonas Jerebko is capable of putting up on offense, it's too bad he only scored six points (on 3-3 shooting) when the Pistons needed someone other than Stuckey & Villanueva to step up. J.J. was also a team-worse negative-16 (by six points), so it could have helped that number, too.
- Chris Paul is pretty amazing and fun to watch. Blaha was comparing him to Isiah Thomas during the broadcast, and I couldn't help but feel the same way. He scored 16 points on just nine shots and had 12 assists in what was looking like an off game at the half.
- Emeka Okafor is a guy I'd love to see in a Pistons uniform. In my four years of college near Charlotte, North Carolina I saw a lot of his games with the Bobcats and grew to be a big fan of his. He finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
- Austin Daye is earning himself more and more minutes. He saw 25 on Wednesday and scored nine points on 3-8 shooting. He was 2-5 from downtown and had three rebounds, as well. I've said this before, but I wouldn't mind seeing him get more looks.
- As it hurt the Hornets in the first half, turnovers played a big role in Detroit's second half collapse, too. They had 16 and a few of them came at crucial points in the fourth quarter.
- I apologize for not getting a proper recap up in a more timely fashion. I didn't think I would have been able to post a productive recap on Wednesday night and unexpected things came up on Thursday to prevent me from weighing in. If it's any consolation, I'm pretty sure that's the first time since I've started this blog that I haven't had a (legit) recap posted within 12 hours of the game ending.
- I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you think went wrong on Wednesday or what the Pistons need to do differently on Friday. One thing is for sure -- freaking win !