Following the 2015-16 Detroit Pistons is a maddening experience. From one game to the next, expecting the unexpected, by now, should be expected. After a hard fought, quality road win at Dallas earlier in the week, the Pistons failed to capitalize on any gained momentum by falling flat in Charlotte, losing 118-103 to the surging Hornets.
Behind Marvin Williams and Nic Batum, the Hornets hung 38 first quarter points on a back-peddling Piston defense. From there, Detroit trailed by as many as 19 points. The fourth quarter saw Detroit pull within six but a 13-1 Charlotte run put the Pistons away for good.
Andre Drummond finished the night with five points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes of "action". Not exactly a game to remember for the Piston big man. The lack of box score success could be blamed on early foul trouble or a general casualness of play thats better suited for a lunch time pick up game at the local Y. Both excuses apply.
Cue the red panda.
Drummond, for all the good that he provides, continues to fail to provide consistent effort from one quarter to the next, let alone one game to the next. When he wants to be, he's an absolute force, but far too often -- at least too often for a face of a franchise -- he chooses not to be. It's concerning but hardly anything new.
As of right now, on a scale of 1-10, the Drummond effort-o-meter lands somewhere around a five or so. "He's young," "It''s a process," and "He's learning to win" are all annoyingly true statements. The question then becomes: at what point do the excuses stop? We don't need to answer that now, as the dog days of summer debating aren't that far off.
Team defense, however, for this year's version of the Detroit Pistons, is a question that needs answers... like, now.
It's funny (depending on your sense of humor), all season long and notably against Charlotte, its never the chess that trips up Piston defense, it's the checkers. Pick and rolls, curling off screens, down screens. These are all simple actions that 1) are a staple of middle school teams nationwide and 2) are all offensive juggernaut schemes against a scrambling Piston defense.
When does the defensive madness end? Stan, this is why you get the big bucks.
One thing is for sure and it's a tried and true statement: talk is cheap. The Pistons can talk about making a playoff push but their defensive effort continues to suggest otherwise.
Respect to the Hornets
This is a fun team playing great basketball. After their win against the Pistons, they are 14-3 since January 30th. Not yet a true contender but firmly a headache for the perceived Eastern Conference favorites in Cleveland and Toronto. Secretly, both the Cavs and Raptors are hoping the other has to deal with Charlotte.
You know what? Good for them. Injuries alone could've given them every reason to bail on this season.
As much as Detroit thinks Reggie Jackson should've been an all-star, a similar, if not superior case could've been made for Kemba Walker. He's been a scoring machine since the calendar turned and is only getting better.
Nicolas Batum is basketball's version of a five tool player. Much like Detroit, Charlotte isn't exactly a destination spot for top talent, but after a disappointing year in Portland, he became expendable and the Hornets took a flyer and traded for the talented small forward. Batum carved up the Pistons on Friday, finishing with 17 points, five rebounds and 11 assists.
Big Al Jefferson is an old school, on the block, post scorer. Sure, injuries have cost him a bit but the game has changed, Big Al hasn't. Instead of force feeding Jefferson's game on the rest of the team, he now comes off the bench to give the second unit a scoring punch. In the era of egos, it's refreshing to see Jefferson take on that role.
On to the next game
Well, what else can you do? No rest for the Pistons as the 76ers are waiting for them in Philadelphia. Back-to-backs haven't been too kind to the Pistons this year but this game, against this team, is a borderline must-win if the Pistons have any serious post season thoughts. Can't lose this one.
It'd be nice to see Drummond or (and!) Jackson take out their frustration on a bad 76ers team. It'd be nice to see the defense lock up. It'd be nice to see Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver get some much-needed run after extended time off. It would all be nice but unfortunately...
.....expect the unexpected.