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Pistons vs. Thunder: Josh Smith tries to be the hero, fails

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The Detroit Pistons had a chance to sweep the season series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, thanks to Josh "only play me in the first quarter" Smith, the Pistons came up just short.

NBAE / Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons added to their losing streak with the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday evening. It now stands at 12 games. That is the Pistons' longest losing streak since the 2009-10 season when the Pistons ended 2009 losing nine straight and then brought in the New Year with four more losses. If the Pistons lose the next three games, they will be the owners of the longest losing streak in franchise history. Their last win came in overtime against the Thunder (albeit without Durant). As for the loss on Sunday, you can thank Josh Smith.

No, it is not all Josh's fault. As a matter of fact, a very good portion of it can't be blamed on Smith at all as he was sitting when the Thunder came back to take the lead at the end of three quarters. He was on the bench until 9:45 of the fourth quarter, and in that time the rest of the team let a seven-point lead turn into a six-point deficit. So why is this loss Smith's fault?

As has been noticed lately, he was sparkling in the first quarter. It could be argued that it provides a viable reason why Smith should start every game. Against the Thunder he shot 4-for-6 for 10 points, hitting his lone 3-point attempt of the opening frame. He was sub-par (as has been the case) from the free throw line going 1-for-4, but he added three rebounds in the quarter. And that was pretty much it for the rest of the game.

In the second quarter he only played 41 seconds as he picked up his third foul on the second play after coming back in the game. Smith was lucky enough to start the third quarter, but was pulled only 1:14 in as he picked up another foul. That means in the second and third quarters combined, Josh Smith played just under two minutes and didn't shoot the ball.

The Pistons would play the Thunder even in the fourth quarter. And in quite a few games this year, that would have garnered the Pistons a couple of wins. But that doesn't matter when you start the fourth quarter down by two. So again, why is it Smith's fault?

In the fourth quarter, the Pistons shot a horrible 7-for-20, good for 35 percent. Four of those makes were from long distance. Believe it or not, this was better than the Thunder did in the fourth as they shot 8-for-24, including 2-for-8 from distance.

Smith attempted seven shots -- the most of any player on either team -- in the final quarter. He made only two. Those attempts consisted of one three-point attempt, one long two, and five shots in the paint. The one he made was in the paint. He did gather two rebounds and dish two assists, but it's what happened in the last 10 second that puts the onus on Smith.

With 45 seconds to go, the Pistons were down by four, coming back from being down by as many as nine in the quarter. Drummond gets a steal, the Pistons bring the ball up court, the ball finds its way back to Drummond for this beautiful posterization. The Thunder bring the ball back down the court and Westbrook misses a jumper which is rebounded by Jennings with nine seconds to go in the game. Jennings rushes the ball up the court and gets past most of the defense -- and this is where things get ugly.

One might argue that Jennings was really the one to lose the game as he had a chance to tie it. He drove the ball and pretty much had a clear shot for a layup. A layup that would have required his left hand, which is perfect for him as he only shoots left handed layups. However, Serge Ibaka (who already had four blocks on the night) was closing fast, so it was smart of Jennings to pass the ball out to an open man. Sadly though, that open man was Josh Smith. Even sadder was that he was standing at the 3-point line. Now, here is why passing it to Smith was not as bad as Smith actually taking the 3-pointer, that missed and caromed out of bounds.

"Obviously, I was going for the win, or I wouldn't have shot a 3," Smith said. "I had a great look, but it just didn't go down."

That is a quote from USA Today. Josh knew where he was and knew what he was doing. Well Josh Smith, you sir are horrific 26.7 percent shooter from distance. But hey, if he can do it in Toronto, he can do it again, right?

Van Gundy was not pleased to say the least.

"We only needed a 2," Van Gundy said when asked about Smith's decision not to keep moving into the lane. "So go to the basket or move in. You'd like to move it into a range where he shoots a higher percentage."

As was expected, with the game being in Detroit, Josh Smith shooting a three and it clanking, it was met with a lot of boos from the crowd. That wasn't the only time he was booed during the game, either. It has to be evident to everyone on the coaching staff and the other players that the fans are not at all pleased with Smith and his shot selection.

Now, part of this is not surprising. As stated earlier, it has become well known that Josh performs his best in the first quarter. Here were his quarter splits before the game Sunday:

QTR FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK PTS
1 4.9 44.3% 0.3 80.0% 1.0 63.2% 2.2 1.6 0.5 0.7 5.1
2 3.2 38.1% 0.3 16.7% 1.3 46.2% 1.7 1.2 0.3 0.3 3.1
3 4.3 34.9% 0.4 28.6% 1.0 50.0% 2.1 1.5 0.2 0.5 3.6
4 2.6 32.6% 0.4 12.5% 1.1 36.8% 1.5 0.9 0.3 0.3 2.1

Smith gets worse as the game goes on. Now, those are just stats from this year. Maybe stats from other years prove that he's been more consistent throughout the game. But this year, that's not the case. Maybe that is why Stan Van Gundy has kept starting Smith instead of Greg Monroe. Maybe it's not the defensive issue, as he's said previously. However, that does not justify continuing to play Smith the rest of the game. If you're going to, tell him he can't shoot in any quarter but the first. In 11 fewer minutes than both Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Smith shot one more time than both of them. He finished the game with the most shots on the team, again.

So who gets the blame for last night's loss? Jennings for not taking the layup and/or passing the ball out to an open Smith? Smith for going for the win instead of a tie by taking a shot he's notoriously bad at making? Van Gundy because he had Josh in the game at the end instead of Monroe (who wasn't great but was still more efficient than Smith)? Everyone but Smith for letting a seven-point lead slip away to one of the arguably best built teams in the NBA (though they're working through issues at the moment)?

Tell us what you think. Also, go tell us when you think this losing streak will end.