After a mini two-game Western Conference road trip to begin the season, the Detroit Pistons finally had their home opener Saturday evening against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets were without one of their better players, Brook Lopez, due to a sprained foot. On top of that, one of the Pistons' most productive players returned from his two-game suspension, giving hope of a better product. Unfortunately, the Pistons lost to the Nets 102-90 to spoil the home opener and Greg Monroe's return, keeping the Pistons at the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 0-3 with Orlando and Philadelphia.
The Nets had five players finish in double-figure points, but two in particular hurt the Pistons. One is a player who not many people like because of his attitude on the court, but you can't argue about how productive his career has been. Kevin Garnett finished the game shooting 7-15 for 18 points, 14 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He exploited many weaknesses of the Pistons interior players, both offensively and defensively. He, along with Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee, combined for 40 points and 26 rebounds. The other player to hurt the Pistons? Joe Johnson.
For the last two years, whenever someone has mentioned the name Joe Johnson to me, the following comes to mind (specifically 0:13-1:02).
Well that's kinda how it felt last night. It didn't seem to matter who the Pistons tried to guard him with, there was nothing anyone could do, especially in the first and fourth quarters. In the first quarter, he was 4-for-4, including a three pointer, as well as 3-for-3 from he free throw line for 12 points. In the fourth quarter, he was 7-for-9 (1-for-3 from distance) for 15 points. That's the same amount of points the Pistons scored in the fourth.
NBA.com has a new stats system, and one of their newest features is Player Tracking. One thing it allows you to do is see details on every shot a player has taken (for your sake, don't go look at Josh Smith's from last year). Well, looking at last night, it says the closest defender to Joe Johnson during his shots were six different Pistons. A lot of fans commented during the game that Joe was murdering Kyle Singler. Well, he had six shots where Kyle was the closest defender, and he shot 5-for-6. Against Caron Butler, he was 4-for-5. He was 1-for-1 against Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond. The two players who held up the best defensively* against Johnson were Greg Monroe (0-for-2) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (3-for-8).
* Note: This "stat" shows which defender was closest, not who was guarding him. The way the SportVu cameras work is they monitor a player's position on the court, not which direction they're facing and intending to guard. Therefore, it's possible the possessions where Johnson shot against Monroe or Drummond were times he lost KCP or Singler and he was their responsibility. So take that "stat" with a grain of salt.
But on to the Pistons and how they played. In short, from 5:07 of the first quarter until the Pistons tied the game at 8:48 of the fourth quarter, Brooklyn was in control. The Nets won the battle of the boards 48-41 without Lopez and with the Pistons having Monroe back. Though the box score says that the Pistons had only seven turnovers, it was more like 10 (adding on the three shots Smith took from 10+ feet that he missed). With Monroe back, Josh Smith still attempted the most shots on the team and went 6-for-15 for 14 points. He also added nine rebounds, five assists and one block.
Andre Drummond's night was efficient but once again limited. As has been a theme the first three games of the season, Drummond was in foul trouble most of the night. Just a minute into the second half, Drummond picked up his third foul. He then went on to do some very nice things. He had a couple nice layups, including an And-1 where he converted the free throw (he was 2-for-4 on the night).
But as seems to happen, a commentator jinxed a player. After a nice six-foot shot by Drummond drawing another And-1, Greg Kelser said that he hopes he doesn't jinx him, but since the third foul he's been really involved in the game. Drummond then missed the free throw and committed his fourth personal foul with seven minutes left in the third quarter. He sat until 8:48 left in the game, just as the Pistons were about to tie it up. Only 11 seconds later, Drummond was called for his fifth foul. Greg Monroe came in for him a few minutes later to finish the game. Drummond finished 6-for-9 for 14 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocks.
After suggesting that if Augustin is playing better, he should start, Jennings had himself a game. Well, at least a first quarter. At one point he scored six straight points to tie the game up at 11, including this absolutely beautiful fake out (that also faked out Josh Smith):
He hit four free throws in the quarter and also get a fast-break dunk to finish with 12 in the quarter. Brandon finished the game shooting 6-for-14 (0-for-3 from deep) for 18 points and nine assists (almost half the Pistons total of 21) against three turnovers (almost half the Pistons total of 7). Jennings finally played significant minutes (36) while D.J. Augustin was the pure backup (though he also played some time with Jennings on the floor). Augustin finished 1-for-5 (0-for-2 from deep) for 6 points to go with two assists in 19 minutes. The reason for Jennings and Augustin to share the floor was because Brooklyn threw lineups on the floor with both Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack.
Speaking of 0-for-X from deep, the Pistons were held to a single three pointer the entire game. That's right, they went 1-for-17. Smith was 0-for-1, Butler and Augustin 0-for-2, Jennings was 0-for-3, and KCP was 0-for-6. The only player to hit a three pointer was Kyle Singler who was 1-for-3. And no, it was not a corner three. The Nets were not great from deep either going 7-26.
Due to Monroe's return, Stan decided to go with a shorter roster instead of playing by committee. Stan used only three players off the bench. No Jonas Jerebko. No Spencer Dinwiddie. No Joel Anthony. All because of Monroe being back. And boy, was he Moosey.
For whatever reason, Stan thought it best that Monroe come off the bench in the home opener. From hearing the intro for Josh Smith, I don't think the fans were too pleased with this as you could hear a spattering of boos. But that didn't matter to Moose who played just as good as he always does. He looked quite sprite even.
Monroe played 30 minutes, going 7-for-12 for 18 points to go with 11 rebounds, three assists and a steal. On one offensive position, you could see how amazing Greg's offense is. Being guarded by Jerome Jordan, Moose got an offensive rebound that caromed out to the three point line. He drove in, spun inside, got Jordan off his feet, spun the other way and got an easy layup. It was seriously a thing of beauty.
The Pistons don't play again until Wednesday against the New York Knicks. That means they have three days off to figure out what is going on (or not going on). This also means that if they were tired from camp, and then traveling for a back-to-back followed by the excitement or anxiety of the home opener, they have time to recoup. Hopefully by Wednesday, Cartier Martin is also recovered from his injuries.
Something needs to be done, and I'd rather it be sooner than later.