The Pistons tread water for 3/4 of the game, trailing the middle 36 minutes or so by anywhere from one to 11 points. A Pistons fourth quarter 8-0 run near the half way point gave them a momentary lead, and a chance to steal a win from a good Grizzlies team (no, not a typo). Unfortunately the Pistons, who shot above 50% for the majority of the game, closed out the final five minutes by shooting just 3-11, including 0-3 on second chance opportunities, and missing four free throws. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies stayed steady on offense, thanks to a sub par performance from Detroit's defense, and hit nine free throws.
This is a tough one to swallow considering the Pistons efficiency on the offensive side of the ball for 43 minutes of the game. They racked up 30 assists and, as I already said, shot above 50% until the final five minutes. The futile finish on offense, the free throws discrepancy, or getting outscored 19-10 in second chance points (9-0 in the first) was just too much to overcome.
The Rodney and Rip combo. Remember the other morning when Matt W linked the Detroit News article quoting Hamilton that he was finally getting used to playing with Stuckey? I guess Rip wasn't kidding. This duo looked very good and in sync tonight, combining for 31 points and 21 assists.
There was also this from Stuckey tonight:
Interior defense, for one. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for 49 points on 19-35 shooting and collected 25 rebounds. Gasol was 9-10 from the FT line.
Speaking of Gasol at the line, the foul committed by Charlie Villanueva on Gasol with under a minute left was atrocious, stemming from what I believed to be pure laziness. At that point, the game was tied and there was under 10 seconds left on the shot clock. As Gasol was rolling past Villanueva, CV stuck his arm out and close-lined him rather than moving his feet with him from the get go. The foul gave Gasol two freebies and the Grizzlies the lead for good.
Ironically, Stuckey and Rip were also part of the problem in the final five minutes. Combined they missed two free throws, Rip committed a shooting foul on Rudy Gay as he was in the act of shooting a three (Gay made all three FTs), and they shot a combined 1-6.
The John Wallace Unsung Hero:
Nevermind his two missed free throws late in the game, Jason Maxiell was in baby eating mode tonight. He finished with 12 points on 5-7 shooting, four rebounds, a steal, and a blocked shot in just 16+ minutes. He was also a team-best plus-five (tied with Villanueva).
The loss sets the Pistons back to 15-29, and with the streaking Bulls winning tonight the Pistons are now seven games out of the final playoff spot, which actually belongs to Charlotte now. Obviously, there's plenty of season left to play, and crazier things have happened (like the Grizzlies being 29-15), but I'd start reading up on how the lottery works if I were you -- it's seems like forever since they've been in it.