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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NBA Trade Deadline Targets: Jeff Green

FEB 4 – With just two weeks until the All-Star break, the Pistons find themselves a half game out of the playoffs in an embarrassingly weak Eastern Conference. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, Joe Dumars will almost certainly make a move that could make or break the season.

Jeff Green was a standout at Georgetown before being drafted No. 5 overall in 2007 by the Boston Celtics. He was traded to Seattle on draft night and spent three years with the SuperSonics and the Thunder. Green was traded back to the Celtics in 2011 at the trade deadline, but missed the entire 2011-2012 season with a heart complication

 

Green leads the Celtics in scoring with 16 points per game and has started every single game this season. This is by far the best season the 6-foot-9 small forward has had in his career and would be a perfect fit for the Pistons.

* * *

What Would the Deal Look Like?

The trade would likely be Jeff Green and a 2014 first round draft pick for Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko. Green makes $8.7 million per year, which is a hefty price, but the pick sweetens the deal enough. Green has two more years on his contract after this season and is only 27 years old. The first round pick depends on how Brooklyn finishes because the Celtics acquired it as part of the Garnett/Pierce trade.

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Why the Deal Would Help Detroit?

The Pistons would be getting an athletic small forward that plays better defense than any small forward the Pistons have. According to nba.com, Green’s defensive rating is better than Josh Smith’s and Kyle Singler’s, but their offensive ratings are both better than Green’s. With Green not having to carry the team in scoring like he does in Boston, he could focus on defense, but still provide an outside threat that would help clear the paint.

With Monroe gone, Smith could move to his natural power forward position and hopefully stop shooting threes. He is much more effective around the basket and would see a drastic improvement in his numbers. His shooting has been awful this season and he is on pace to set the record for worst three-point percentage in the history of the NBA.

Andre Drummond would not have as much competition for minutes and rebounds with Monroe gone. We could really see just how special Drummond is going to be without another big man stealing some of his thunder.

Teams could no longer collapse the paint whenever the ball goes inside with viable shooting options outside. Green and has made 73 three-pointers so far, which would be second best on the Pistons behind Brandon Jennings. His 36.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc would be the best on the team among players who see meaningful minutes.

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Why the Deal Would Help Boston?

Rajon Rondo and Greg Monroe are two of the best young players in the NBA and would be perfect to build a franchise around. Rondo is a pass-first guard and would give Monroe more touches than he gets in Detroit. Monroe’s defense leaves something to be desired, but he has many years ahead of him to improve.

Jonas Jerebko has seen his minutes steadily decline for the past few seasons. In his rookie season, he started 73 games and averaged 9.3 points and six rebounds per game. He’s only 26 years old and could help the Celtics in their rebuilding process.

* * *

Could it Happen?

It is no secret that the Celtics are in rebuilding mode. They are clearly out of playoff contention and trade rumors have been swirling all season. Green is their best player until Rondo gets healthy, and he also has one of the biggest salaries on the team.

Rondo’s contract expires in the summer of 2015, and barring any health setbacks, he will most likely seek a max contract. Boston has every intention of re-signing him and needs to clear cap space. Among other players, Green is one player that Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has talked about dealing before the deadline.

This move makes sense for both teams. Monroe would be the best big man that Boston has and Green would be a perfect fit at small forward for the Pistons. Joe Dumars is always a wildcard when it comes to making smart personnel decisions (see Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette), so at this point he could do anything.


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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 Recap: New York and Atlanta

NOV 22 – The Pistons finally returned home from their grueling West Coast road trip to face Carmelo Anthony and the struggling New York Knicks. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope found himself in the starting lineup due to the absence of Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups, and looked to make the most out of the opportunity. With the depth of this roster, KCP has often found himself to be the odd man out, lucky to play more than five minutes.

The Pistons led by a slim two-point margin after the first quarter of play. KCP did not disappoint, scoring seven points in the frame. The Knicks were able to turn things around in the second quarter, charging out to a six-point lead halfway through the second. Italian sharpshooter Luigi Datome knocked down a three-pointer with three seconds left to tie the game going into halftime. That was the only shot he made in the game.

With under four minutes to go in the third quarter, the Pistons went on a seven-point run, capped off by a Kyle Singler three. The Knicks could not cut into the Pistons’ lead, and trailed 71-63 going into the final quarter of play. Rodney Stuckey scored five points in a row for the Pistons to open up the fourth quarter. They eventually extended their lead to 15 before the Knicks were forced to call timeout. A pair of free throws by J.R. Smith brought the Pistons’ lead down to five with 3:34 remaining. But that was as close as the Knicks would get, eventually losing 92-86.

Rodney Stuckey had a phenomenal game coming off the bench, scoring 21 points on 8-14 shooting. He’s been playing surprisingly well this season, only increasing his value should the Pistons decide to trade him before the deadline. Josh Smith added 19 points while taking 19 shots. The fearsome Pistons frontcourt of Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond combined for a beastly 48 points and 27 rebounds. KCP finished with 13 points.

Carmelo Anthony did all he could to keep his Knicks in the game, leading all scorers with 25 points. J.R. Smith pitched in with 18 points off the bench in the losing effort. The Pistons had not previously beaten the Knicks since 2011.

The following night, the Pistons headed down to Atlanta to face Josh Smith’s former team, the Hawks. It was a defensive battle in the first quarter, with Detroit only able to score 13 points. Yet they found themselves merely down by two. Then someone flipped a switch, and the Pistons scored 33 in the second quarter. Stuckey scored 10 points in the frame, and it appeared as though both teams forgot how to play defense. Detroit took a 46-43 lead into halftime.

The third quarter was just as entertaining, with both teams trading buckets and neither able to pull away. With less than two minutes remaining in the third, Lou Williams made a three-pointer to give the Hawks a two-point lead that they would not relinquish. Atlanta went on a seven-point run midway through the fourth that the Pistons simply could not come back from. They eventually fell 95-83.

Monroe had a disappointing night, scoring only seven points and grabbing four rebounds. Smith was ice cold as well, shooting 5-15 from the field and 0-4 from behind the arc for 11 points. Brandon Jennings had to do most of the work himself, scoring 21 points. He had to take 21 shots to get there, however. That number is way too high for any point guard, but the Pistons knew what they were getting when they signed Jennings in the offseason. Stuckey continued his hot streak with 18 points off the bench.

The Hawks shot an impressive 50.7% from the field, something that Coach Cheeks will definitely have to address with his players on defense. Big man Paul Millsap scored 18 points, but was a virtual non-factor on the boards. The Hawks as a team had only five offensive rebounds, compared to 15 for the Pistons. Detroit will get another shot at Atlanta on Friday when they return to the Palace for a rematch.

The Pistons are only 1-5 on the road, giving them a 4-7 record overall. The fans might not be happy, but if the season ended today, the Pistons would have the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: I know, I know, it’s early, but Detroit is right in the thick of it, and as the season goes along, they will improve. The chemistry between Jennings and the big men will improve, and they will start winning more close games.

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