For the first time this season, the Pistons are below .500. Let me reiterate. We are 17 games into the season and we are just now falling below the Mendoza line of Eastern playoff contention. Last season, it took us 48 minutes into the season to fall below .500 and we never even got close to recovering. That being said, this does not excuse the abysmal display offered up for our viewing displeasure on Sunday evening.
For the first time in my life, I saw the Pistons live in a game that meant something, as part of a holiday to New York over Thanksgiving break. What I saw made me want to do what I usually would do when faced with such a performance (swear and throw things) but I couldn't because there were people around. From my lofty seats in section 225 of Barclays Center, I noticed several flaws in our game, but none bigger than the three that I'm going to highlight as the basis for this loss:
Flaw 1: Weak under pressure
This is perhaps the most obvious reason why the Pistons went down on Sunday. The Pistons are a young team, with 4 starters under 26 and three regular contributors under 22 years old, but they folded like a paper aeroplane at the first sign of pressure. The Pistons were up by as much as eight in the final quarter, and I was thinking to myself that then was the time to accelerate and shut out Brooklyn, but instead Brooklyn made a few shots, got on a run, got the crowd involved and barreled past Detroit.
Andre Drummond was a fairly big culprit in all of this. So often we say that he's just 22 and maturing into an absolute superstar of a behemoth, capable of dominating a game, but we also say far too often how he allows himself to get frustrated and mentally locked out of the game. In the fourth quarter there were a lot of puzzled, exasperated looks, several thrown arms in the air, and a general aura of apathy. His screens were like a cloud (more so than usual), he didn't fight for position in the post and he allowed himself to be bullied by Brook Lopez late as he defended him the way James Harden would defend a runaway train. For all his struggles, the boxscore will still say 20 points and 18 rebounds, but his struggles came in intangibles tonight.
Flaw 2: Why are 4 other guys wearing the same thing as me?
Isolation ball has been a major part of the offense this season, with both Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris being large parts of that. Earlier in the season, Morris said how he liked Van Gundy was giving him a long leash with regards to allowing him to isolate in the mid-range as that was his game, but his shot has fallen off the rails lately. On Sunday evening, Morris and Jackson combined for 7-30 shooting for the night, including 1-7 from downtown.
Jackson late was again a big reason why the offense bogged down with his lack of ball movement. In fairness, he only had 3 turnovers opposite 9 assists, but so often he dribbled then dished a late pass for a bad isolation. Like Drummond, his raw numbers will suggest a decent game. On the big screen at Barclays it said 8 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, decent numbers. But what it doesn't show is the 4-20 shooting, the 0-4 from 3, the no free throw attempts, the 3 turnovers, the 4 personal fouls, and the 4 shots he had sent back in his face. Jackson started off the season exceptionally promising, but has really struggled to run an efficient offense lately, culminating with the final play, where he decided he was playing well enough to heave from 30 feet with about 8 seconds left instead of passing and running a play Van Gundy drew up.
FLAW 3: WE JUST CANNOT SHOOT
Sometimes, the reason you lose basketball games is simply because you suck at putting the ball in the hoop. Sunday, the Pistons sucked at putting the ball through the hoop. The Pistons made 34 field goals to the Nets' 35. However, while the Nets only needed 81 attempts, shooting at 43.2%, the Pistons put up an astonishing 101 shots, converting them at a paltry 33.7%. The Pistons also only shot 25% from 3 (6-24) and, not helped by Drummond's 2-11, went 9-21 from the line (note: I actually just realized that Drummond and KCP were the only two Pistons to attempt a FT all game. WTF, guys???).
There were definitely some individual shooting performances which dragged the team down, none more notable than Jackson's lackluster 4-20 display, but he wasn't helped by Marcus Morris shooting 3-10, Anthony Tolliver (0-6), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-17) nor Andre Drummond (9-19).
***THE ONE POSITIVE***
Despite his 6-17 shooting, KCP had an otherwise excellent showing. He was uber aggressive in attacking the basket, and actually got a few calls to go his way, earning 10 attempts from the foul line, converting on 7. He used his drive and free throws to counter his poor shooting to will himself to 21 points, while also adding 7 rebounds and again playing great defense on his matchup, which for the most part was Jarrett Jack. He even hit a big corner three to tie it up at 81 before Dre hit the and-one breakaway layup, and you thought we'd refocus and grab the momentum back for the win, but alas, it was not to be.
The Pistons have a chance for an immediate bounceback, hosting the 7-10 Houston Rockets at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday night.