Pistons Hit Rough Stretch, Drop Five of Six

FEB 26 – 23-34 is not usually the record of a team in playoff contention.

Through a coach firing, bricks galore and a horrible conference, the Detroit Pistons miraculously find themselves four games out of the playoffs with 25 games remaining. Their recent 1-5 stretch has not helped their chances, but with no one wanting to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, Detroit is in prime position to screw up yet another season.

Here is a breakdown of their last six games.

The Cavaliers came to the Palace for the last game before the All-Star break. Trailing the Pistons by three games at the time, this was viewed as a must-win for both teams.

Detroit held a seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter and looked in control on their home court. The Cavs went on an 8-0 run midway through the quarter to cut the deficit to two points. Tristan Thompson came up clutch for Cleveland late, scoring eight straight for his team in the final frame and 25 points overall. He also pitched in with 15 boards.

A pair of Kyrie Irving free throws with two minutes remaining gave the Cavaliers a one-point lead. Irving showed why he is regarded as one of the brightest young talents in the league by hitting a three-pointer with 27 seconds left to seal the game for the Cavs. They went on to win 93-89.

After a much-needed reprieve for the Pistons due to the All-Star break, they opened a back-to-back home-and-home series with the Charlotte Bobcats. Detroit received a thumping in both contests, dropping the first game at home 108-96 and the road game 116-98. The Pistons’ bigs had no answer for Al Jefferson, as he scored 32 and 29 points, respectively. Detroit was tied with Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East before the two games, which turned into another opportunity squandered.

After the brief one-game road trip, Josh Smith got some revenge on his former team in their next game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Pistons found themselves in a familiar position at halftime, down by 11. In uncharacteristic fashion, Detroit was actually able to mount a comeback. An 8-0 run midway through the third quarter brought the Pistons even with Atlanta at 71.

With two minutes left in the game, Kyle Singler broke a 104-104 tie with a bomb from beyond the arc and an and-one by Will Bynum a minute later extended the lead. Singler sealed the deal with another three as Detroit walked away with a 115-107 win.

Dallas, a sneaky good team flying under the radar in the Western Conference, was next up for the Pistons. Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis were too much to handle for Detroit and handed them yet another home loss. The Pistons were never really in the game, down by 10 at halftime and unable to get closer than four points for the rest of the game. Nowitzki scored 24 for the Mavs and Ellis dished out 13 assists.

The final game of Detroit’s 1-5 streak came against Golden State on Monday. The Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) made their only visit to the Palace this year. It was an entertaining game throughout, with the Pistons hanging tough with the hot-shooting Warriors. They found themselves up three at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The final frame always seems to be the Achilles heel for the Pistons, and Monday’s matchup was no exception. Detroit could only muster 13 points in the fourth quarter and were outscored by 10 points. With Curry only shooting 6-15 from the field and 3-9 from deep, the Pistons had their best shot at beating Golden State. But the defense collapsed and the Warriors made it rain from three-point land, running away with a 104-96 win.

Through this six-game stretch, new interim coach John Loyer inserted Singler into the starting lineup in place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Singler has been averaging 13.3 points per game in the last six, including hitting 50 percent of his three-pointers. The switch seems to be helping Singler, but at this point any roster changes may be too little too late.

Josh Smith was nearly traded at the deadline, but Joe Dumars could not swing a deal in time. In the last six games, his play has improved slightly, averaging 18.5 points per game with double-digit rebounds in four of those games.

Greg Monroe, also rumored to be on the trading block, remains a Piston until at least the end of the season. He has been one of the most consistent players on the team, scoring at least 13 points in the last six and making at least five shots per game.

Detroit might be the most frustrating team to watch in the NBA. With so much star power and young talent on the team, they should be bound for the playoffs. But every time they appear to be turning a corner in their season, they fall flat on their faces. As of right now, no one knows if they will make the playoffs, and we might not know until the final game has been played.


Blake Froling is the co-host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.

 

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Opinion: Pistons Need to Shake Things Up

JAN 21 – After a MLK Day drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers, the Detroit Pistons found themselves with a record of 17-24. At this time last year, an “inferior” Pistons squad was 16-25. The addition of superstars does not guarantee success, I suppose. Detroit must do something to break out of their funk and take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference, and it starts with the starting lineup.

Coach Mo Cheeks likes to have Andre DrummondGreg Monroe and Josh Smith on the court at the same time. While this combination may be physically imposing, it also creates problems. Spacing has been a major concern ever since Smith signed on the dotted line and those concerns have not gone away with time.

Drummond is ineffective outside of five feet. Monroe has slightly more range than Drummond, but likes to utilize post moves. Smith is at his best when he drives to the basket, but has a tendency to jack up more than the occasional three-pointer. With the paint so congested, defenses can collapse down low and deny any penetration.

The Pistons need to make a change to their starting lineup, and they should go smaller. According to nba.com, the Pistons are dead last in opponent field goal percentage from 15 to 19 feet and 20 to 24 feet. Opposing teams take advantage of Detroit’s lack of athleticism and quickness by drawing the bigs out of the paint and creating mismatches. While on offense, the Pistons are in the bottom five in field goal percentage outside of 10 feet, yet they are No. 3 in field goals attempted from 25 to 29 feet.

According to nbawowy.com, with the combination of Smith, Monroe and Drummond on the floor, opposing teams shoot 48.8 percent from the field. Take out Monroe and insert Kyle Singler and things change. Opponents now shoot 44.6 percent from the field. Detroit cannot afford to load up the paint and neglect the rest of the court.

Now to the backcourt. With Rodney Stuckey finally playing at a high level, I believe he should be in the starting lineup instead of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Using nbawowy.com again, the combination of Brandon Jennings and KCP produces 1.035 points per possession while shooting 44.5 percent. With Jennings and Stuckey together, they produce 1.103 ppp and shoot 46.5 percent.

Coach Cheeks usually gives both players the same amount of minutes, but Stuckey is vastly outplaying the rookie. Using per 36-minute stats to make things perfectly even, Stuckey shoots nearly seven percent better from the field and almost doubles the rookie in scoring. I can understand wanting to give KCP experience, but the Pistons should be in panic mode right now. Start Stuckey and the offense immediately improves.

There have been strong rumors that the Pistons will be active before the trade deadline. Most people think that Monroe will be dealt because of his expiring contract and the fact that his agent will push for a max contract over the summer. With Stuckey also having an expiring contract and playing so well this season, he could be thrown in to sweeten the deal and help with the salary cap.

The strongest rumor has been Monroe and Stuckey for Arron Afflalo and Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic. Afflalo, a former Piston, is having the best season of his career, averaging 20.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. This could be a fluke season (see Charlie Villanueva) or the birth of a great young player. Harris is also playing much better than his career numbers. He is averaging 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game at just 21 years of age.

Whatever the Pistons do, they need to do something before it is too late. If the Smith/Jennings signings do not result in a playoff birth, then look for Joe Dumars to be out the door very quickly.

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Pistons Recap: Philadelphia and Miami

DEC 4 – The Pistons took on Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at the Palace. Philly had been coming off a tough stretch, losing seven of their last eight before facing Detroit. The 76ers struggle on defense, giving up the most points per game in the league. This proved to be their downfall in Detroit.

Detroit got off to a red-hot start, scoring a whopping 40 points in the first quarter and taking a 15-point lead. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope broke out of his shooting funk, scoring eight points in the first frame. He had been averaging 6.5 points per game in the last four games, so it was good to see the rookie heat up.

The Pistons kept their foot on the pedal in the second quarter, outscoring the 76ers by nine to take a 70-46 halftime lead. Andre Drummond entered beast-mode, scoring 12 in the first half and grabbing 10 rebounds. The Pistons flat-out outplayed the Sixers in almost every aspect of the game. They controlled the boards and shot surprisingly well from beyond the arc.

The 76ers finally got things going in the third quarter, outscoring the Pistons by 12 in the frame. Thaddeus Young scored 12 for Philadelphia and brought the deficit back down to 12. But that’s as close as they would get. The Pistons crushed any chance of a Philly comeback and went on to win by 15.

Drummond had the best game of his career and the best of any big man since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1990. He finished with 31 points, 19 rebounds, and six steals. This game showed just how bright the 20 year-old’s future is in the league. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings had 20 points each, with Smith hitting 3-5 three-pointers and Jennings dishing out 12 assists. Rodney Stuckey came off of the bench and added 17 points. Rodney is having a breakout season, leading the team in scoring at the perfect time; he’s in the final year of his contract and wants to cash in. The Pistons could get much more for him in a trade than they anticipated at the beginning of the season.

Thaddeus Young led the way for Philadelphia, scoring 24 and grabbing five rebounds. Former Buckeye Evan Turner continued his impressive season with 20 points and three steals. Carter-Williams is making a strong case for rookie of the year, scoring 15 points, and adding six assists and six steals.

The Pistons took their talents to South Beach on Tuesday to face the defending champion Miami Heat. Detroit continued their hot shooting and took a 10-point lead after the first quarter. Kyle Singler and KCP both had six in the frame. In the second, Miami stayed with the Pistons, but couldn’t make up any ground on the Pistons’ lead. They went into halftime trailing 54-43.

Singler began to hit a groove in the third, scoring 10 points in the quarter and helping the Pistons extend their lead to 14. The Heat were without Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James couldn’t do much against the fearsome Pistons frontcourt. Detroit held on to their lead in the final frame despite a furious Miami rally and went on to beat the Heat 107-97. The win brought their record up to 8-10, good enough for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Singler led the team in scoring, coming off the bench and adding 18 points. The frontcourt trio of Smith, Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 41 points and 28 rebounds. The Heat have no post presence and it proved to be their downfall. Detroit had their way with Miami in the paint, scoring 60 down low. Jennings scored 15 with five assists and Stuckey added 16. The Pistons, who are known for bricking jump shots left and right, shot over 50% in the game. Detroit travels to Milwaukee on Wednesday to take on the struggling Bucks.

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Pistons Weekend Recap: Memphis and Boston

Nov 5, 2013 – After an impressive opening night win against Washington, the Pistons packed their bags and headed for the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Memphis had just lost their first game of the season in San Antonio, and was looking to bounce back against the new-look Pistons.

Detroit had not beaten Memphis since October 28, 2009. With Rodney Stuckey returning to the lineup, the Pistons added much-needed depth to their backcourt.

With 1:08 left in the fourth quarter, Josh Smith hit a three-pointer to give Detroit a six-point lead. But the Grizzlies charged back, tying the game with eight seconds left on a Marc Gasol layup. A missed three-pointer by Chauncey Billups sent the game into overtime.

The Pistons played catch-up the entire overtime period. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen took advantage of Pistons miscues and opened up a 106-97 Grizzlies lead with 1:30 left. The Pistons never had a chance after that, eventually losing 111-108.

Josh Smith had 19 points on a paltry 7-23 shooting, including 3-11 from beyond the arc. Smith was much more effective when he drove to the basket, making four of his seven shots in the paint. Andre Drummond logged 48 minutes, the most of any player on either team. Drummond finished with an impressive stat line, posting 12 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and two blocks with only one turnover. Greg Monroe had an equally impressive night, scoring 16 and grabbing eight boards.

Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 13 points and Rodney Stuckey scored 19 off the bench. Will Bynum, once thought to be the odd man out in the Pistons’ backcourt, started alongside Billups and scored 18 points on 7-11 shooting. With Brandon Jennings returning to the lineup in Boston, it will be interesting to see how Head Coach Maurice Cheeks rotates his guards.

On the Memphis side, Mike Conley led all scorers with 22 points and five steals. Frontcourt duo Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 31 points and 18 rebounds in the contest. Memphis had never won a home opener since the team moved from Vancouver in 2001.

The Pistons then headed home on Sunday, where they wore their new “Motor City” jerseys. They plan to wear them during every Sunday night game this season. Their opponent was the Boston Celtics, a franchise in rebuilding mode.

The Pistons dominated the paint the entire game, outscoring Boston 54-38 down low. Detroit opened up a 10-point lead in the first half and seemed in control of the game. But the young Boston team rallied back, taking a 64-63 lead early in the fourth quarter. A few short minutes later, the Pistons went on a run of their own, extending their lead back to 10. The Pistons never looked back, going on to win 87-77. The Celtics dropped to 0-3, while the Pistons moved to 2-1 on the season.

Smith, Drummond, and Monroe combined for 45 points and 29 rebounds, while Drummond had his way with the Celtics, dunks and put-backs galore. Brandon Jennings made his regular season debut after returning from tooth and jaw problems and was forced to wear a mask but was still able to score 14 points and dish out four assists.

The Pistons stay in Detroit this week,  facing Paul George and the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday and Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

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