The Detroit Pistons finished their mini Western Conference road trip with a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night by the final score of 97-91. The first half looked eerily similar to their loss the night before, but the second half was a whole different story.
The Timberwolves made headlines this summer by trading Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers and receiving Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett in return. The Timberwolves were looking at a rebuild and Wiggins is the centerpiece. As such, Thursday night's game looked like it'd be an easy win against a Western Conference team. Unfortunately, the Pistons look like they're the ones rebuilding, at least offensively.
Though it's early in the season (only two games in), the Pistons offense has looked as disorganized, maybe even more disorganized than a season ago. Last year the Pistons averaged 101 points per game. In the preseason, they averaged 98.9. Through two games, the Pistons are averaging just 85 points per contest. Currently, that's second to last in the NBA. They're 26th in the league in field goal percentage, 23rd in the league in three point percentage, and 27th in the league in free throw percentage.
On the other hand, the defense has looked promising. They are 10th in the league in opponent field goal percentage, 10th in the league in opponent three point percentage, and 11th in the league opponent free throw percentage. Rebounding is another story. They're currently 22nd in opponent rebounds per game, 19th in opponent offensive rebounds per game, and 23rd in opponent defensive rebounds per game.
I wish there was a player the Pistons had that could help on the offensive end and the glass.
Thursday night definitely showed the Pistons' offensive woes. Josh Smith (never known for amazing field goal percentage) went 5-for-16. Andre Drummond went 5-for-14. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went 5-for-13. And even one of the players who was key in keeping the game close, D.J. Augustin, only went 6-for-18. There was one offensive stretch in the second quarter where the Pistons had five straight chances to score and couldn't. Here's the play-by-play of that sequence:
3:57 - Josh Smith misses 21-foot jumper
3:56 - D.J. Augustin offensive rebound
3:42 - D.J. Augustin misses 6-foot Running Jumper
3:39 - Kyle Singler offensive rebound
3:30 - Josh Smith misses layup
3:29 - Pistons offensive team rebound
3:29 - Andre Drummond vs. Nikola Pekovic (D.J. Augustin gains possession)
3:08 - D.J. Augustin misses 23-foot three point jumper
3:05 - Andre Drummond offensive rebound
3:03 - Andre Drummond misses layup
The Pistons finished the first half only down by one, 45-44. It was not a pretty half. One telling stat for the first half was that the Pistons were 100 percent from the free throw line. They were 1-for-1.
Starting the second half was even worse. In less than a minute and a half into the third, the Wolves were up 51-44, and it got no prettier. By the time the five minute mark rolled around, they had built a 19 point lead at 70-51. Another telling story of the third quarter was that by the 6:30 mark the Pistons were in the bonus. Even with that being the case, the Pistons only attempted six free throws the entire quarter (all after getting in the bonus). Augustin was 4-for-4, KCP missed both of his.
The Pistons finally came back from half time with two minutes left in the third quarter. Augustin started it off with an eight foot jumper and then two free throws. Then Caron Butler showed up. In the first half, Caron was 0-for-3 from the floor, missing both of his three point attempts. In the third quarter, Caron was 3-for-3, making both of his three point attempts within the last 1:30 of the third quarter. Add in a Jerebko jumper from 19 feet and the Pistons ended the quarter only down 10.
And Butler didn't stop there. He would score the Pistons first nine points of the fourth quarter. Augustin followed this up with a three pointer to bring the Pistons within three. The lineup of Augustin, KCP, Butler, Jerebko and Drummond (with some Joel Anthony in there) had brought the Pistons back within three. Some people have been vying for that to be our starting line-up (yours truly included). Caron Butler finished the game going 10-for-14 for 24 points. In the second half, he was 10-for-11 overall and 4-for-5 from distance. Talk about some Tough Juice.
The Pistons eventually completed the 19 point comeback, tying the game at 88-88 (on a Butler three pointer) with less than two minutes to go. Unfortunately, that's where the magic ended. Andre would proceed to shoot 1-for-4 from the charity stripe while the Timberwolves would make four free throws, a three pointer and a deuce to seal the deal. And let's not talk about the ill-advised three pointer from Smith (they're all ill-advised) when the Pistons were down 85-86.
Another story of the game was once again the point guard position. Again, Brandon Jennings started the first and third quarters, but didn't finish them. He had 20 minutes in the game against Denver, but only had 15 minutes against the Timberwolves. This was very likely due to some character issues. Jennings received a technical foul less than five minutes into the third quarter for arguing a foul call on Andre (glad to see him standing up for his teammates). On the very next stoppage, Jennings came out of the game for good and Augustin finished the game. After the game, Jennings suggested that Augustin should start. Both point guards finished with six assists and two turnovers.
As was the case in Denver, Andre suffered foul trouble. The foul call that Jennings was arguing was Andre's fourth foul. He would not play the rest of the third quarter. At this point in the game, the Pistons were "only" down by nine. Andre did not foul out, however, playing over nine minutes in the fourth and only fouled once - a minute after he came back in the game.
Once again, the Pistons' big men were out-matched by the opposing big men. Thaddeus Young, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, went 7-for-13 for 19 points to go with five boards and three steals. Nikola Pekovic also went 7-for-13 for 17 points along with his 10 rebounds. Smith and Drummond combined for 10-30 shooting for 21 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
The Pistons are now 0-2 on the young season, but some expected this. The Pistons have been without Monroe, Meeks and Martin (I have trademarked them 3M) for both games. Monroe will be back for the game Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets. Meeks will be out for at least 5 more weeks and Martin's status is day-to-day. Getting back even Monroe could have made all the difference in both of these games. Spencer Dinwiddie didn't play in this game for unknown reasons and neither did Luigi Datome.
A couple of things to keep an eye on for Saturday's game: 1) Does Stan make Augustin the starter PG? 2) Does Stan make Monroe the starting PF?
Pistons pump-up note: Josh Smith shot seven more shots that were further than 10 feet from the basket. That's 175 more squats. Pretty soon we're all going to have legs of steel.