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Archive → February, 2009

Game Preview: Detroit at New Orleans

Date: Feb. 25, 2009

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Detroit record: 27-28

New Orleans record: 33-22

Detroit probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Allen
Iverson
Tayshaun
Prince
Antonio
McDyess
Rasheed
Wallace

New Orleans probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Chris
Paul
Rasual
Butler
Peja
Stojakovic
David
West
Tyson
Chandler

Spread: Detroit +8.5

Outlook: The Pistons will try to avoid their first eight-game losing streak since 1994-95 season. Their starting lineup that season:

Point guard: Lindsey Hunter.

Shooting guard: Joe Dumars.

Small forward: Grant Hill.

Power forward: Terry Mills.

Center: Mark West.

The final loss in the skid came to the Orlando Magic, who were led by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.

Detroit finished that season with a 28-54 record.

Sorry for the short preview, but I’ll be travelling all day. Check back closer to 8:00 to see if there will be a live blog for this game.

Game Review: Miami 103, Detroit 91

Fixing the Pistons’ season is no easy task. They have lost seven straight games for the first time in six years. And they are under .500 for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

But here are two simple steps that should help:

Start Richard Hamilton over Rodney Stuckey. And start Jason Maxiell over Antonio McDyess.

Hamilton over Stuckey

Hamilton hasn’t kept it a secret that he would prefer to start. Hamilton, via the Detroit Free Press:

“I didn’t agree with coming off the bench, but I did it to help the team and to win games. But we haven’t won games with me doing that.”

Continuing to trot out Stuckey game after game is getting the Pistons nowhere. It has been clear for quite a while that he has hit a wall. There was a hope the All-Star break would rejuvenate him, but Stuckey has scored a total of 21 points n the four games since the six-day layoff. It’s his worst four-game scoring stretch of the season.

Many have compared Stuckey to Dwyane Wade, who had 31 points, 16 assists and seven rebounds last night. But it’s abundantly clear Stuckey is miles from that level.

The Pistons are obviously more concerned about the future than the present, and Stuckey will be a key piece going forward. But he’s so overwhelmed right now that extended playing time is not helping to improve his game.

And giving Stuckey a starting job he doesn’t deserve yet goes against the vision that won Detroit a title in 2004. Look at that season’s starting lineup.

Chauncey Billups was on five teams before coming to Detroit.

Hamilton was traded by the Wizards when he was still developing.

Tayshaun Prince, a former Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, fell to 23rd in the draft and sat on the bench for most of his rookie season.

Ben Wallace went undrafted and was cut by the Celtics, who tried him out as a small forward.

Rasheed Wallace was labeled a cancer in Portland.

Everyone of them was overlooked. Stuckey has been coddled.

Coming off the bench will force Stuckey to find his agressiveness again. That, not deferring to Iverson, will help him develop. And his playmaking ability will mean Detroit’s bench will still have some punch.

Hamilton, on the other hand, is a battle-tested veteran who has the respect of his teammates. He’s only 31, so he could be part of the Pistons’ next generation. Reggie Miller, the player Hamilton is most often compared to, played until he was 39.

By starting Stuckey, the Pistons are alienating Hamilton, hurting their present and making Stuckey soft.

Maxiell over McDyess

McDyess hasn’t kept it a secret that he would prefer to come off the bench. McDyess, via the Detroit News:

“At this point in my career, I thought I’d just continue to come off the bench and be a role player,” he said. “It’s still kind of tough to know at this age that I am starting. But it’s a good compliment. For me, it’s no problem. I just know I’ve got to do whatever I can, whether I am in there for 10 minutes or 20 minutes.”

McDyess, 34, has shown his age this year and is clearly better when he plays limited minutes.

In the second game of back-to-backs: 5.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 0.3 blocks per game.

Other games: 8.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game.

McDyess scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed six rebounds last night. That performance came a game after he played 26:25 against Cleveland — the fewest minutes he has played in his last 13 games.

In the first game after the All-Star break, McDyess scored a season-high 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Limit his minutes, and McDyess is effective. Otherwise, he’s just burning himself out and not helping the team.

Curry’s biggest problem with Maxiell has been his lack of rebounding. But in his last three games he has averaged eight rebounds (and 10.7 points). 

Finally seeing consistent minutes, Maxiell has been the jolt of energy the Pistons’ starting lineup could use.

Overview

Without a doubt, these moves come with risk.

According to 82games.com, a lineup of Iverson, Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Maxiell and Rasheed Wallace is secon-worst among the Pistons’ top 20 five-man units. The contingent is outscored by .28 points for every set of offensive and defensive possessions.

But those five have played just 44 minutes together, hardly a reliable sample. And Iverson and Hamilton have played well together as of late.

It’s like what Detroit’s doing is working.

How much more in sync did the Heat look last night than the Pistons? And Jermaine O’Neal, Jamario Moon and Yakhouba Diawara played a combined 86 minutes last night. A week ago, none of those three were in their rotation.

So, it’s not too late to try mixing up the rotation again. Sticking with what’s not working is obviously not the solution.

Game Preview: Detroit at Miami

Date: Feb. 24, 2009

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Detroit record: 27-27

Miami record: 29-26

Detroit probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Allen
Iverson
Tayshaun
Prince
Antonio
McDyess
Rasheed
Wallace

Miami probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Mario
Chalmers
Dwyane
Wade
Yakhouba
Diawara
Udonis
Haslem
Jermaine
O’Neal

Spread: Detroit +4.5

Outlook: So, I guess we can ditch the farce that the Pistons are more focused on the road.

But Detroit has much deeper problems than winning away from the Palace of Auburn Hills. Via A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers:

“We don’t have that one guy that steps in, get on a person for doing something wrong,” (Antonio) McDyess said. “We have certain nights where one person would say something, and another would, but we need that one person who will be there, and we know that they got our back and that they’ll get on us when we do wrong and direct us when we’re going wrong. We don’t have that.”

This is where Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace are missing more than anywhere else.

This team seems to be divided into three groups.

1. The guys who won the championship in 2004 (Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace) and Antonio McDyess.

2. Allen Iverson.

3. Rodney Stuckey and Amir Johnson.

I think group one resents the other two groups in some ways.

Iverson further eroded their defense. And he destroyed their unselfish offense.

Stuckey pushed Billups out the door, and Johnson (more indirectly than Stuckey with Billups) led to Wallace’s departure. I’m sure group one doesn’t want to dislike those two. But when they see Stuckey and Johnson getting minutes they might not have earned yet, there has to be some hard feelings deep down.

Billups and Ben Wallace were the Pistons’ leaders. They made it so Rasheed Wallace was welcomed with open arms in 2004. They kept the team focused. They set a tone.

Flip Saunders wisely let the players police themselves. But with Billups and Wallace no longer around, and Michael Curry unable to earn the respect of this team, the leadership void McDyess sees is derailing this team.

The Pistons need a new sheriff in town. But they probably won’t have on until next season at the earliest.

Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 99, Detroit 78

Game Review: Cleveland 99, Detroit 78

Micheal Ray Richardson once said of a New York Knicks’ fading season, “The ship be sinking.” A reporter then asked how far it could sink, and he said, “Sky’s the limit.”

Sounds like that could apply to any other team?

Detroit has a season-worst, six-game losing streak. And the most recent loss was a 21-point defeat that was worse than the final score.

That’s right — a 21-point loss that was worse than the numbers indicate.

The Pistons, at .500 the deepest into a season in eight years, are tied with Philadelphia for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons haven’t played a first-round series without home-court advantage since Terry Mills and Christian Laettner were their starting bigs.

The margin of defeat tied for Detroit’s second-worst of the season with a loss to Dallas a month ago.

Cleveland outscored Detroit, 36-17, in the second quarter — the Pistons worst quarter since the Bulls outscored them by the same score in the fourth quarter 13 days ago.

And the Cavaliers won the first quarter, 31-17. Detroit hasn’t had two quarters that bad since at least the 2002-03 season.

Cleveland went on runs of 15-0, 12-0 and 13-0 in the first half, making the entire second half garbage time. Sometimes, teams get out to fast starts. The key is slowing them enough to stay in the game, so when you can make a run of your own, you get back in the game.

But the Pistons had none of that, allowing the Cavaliers to dictate every facet of the game for the entire first half.

So even though Detroit outscored Cleveland by 13 in the second half, it didn’t matter because the Pistons were so lifeless in the first half.

The Cavaliers had four players score in double figures in the first half. The Pistons had none.

The Cavaliers made 7-of-10 3-pointers and shot 56.4 percent from the field. The Pistons made 1-0f-4 3-pointers and shot 36.6 percent from the field.

The Cavaliers had 22 rebounds. The Pistons had 18.

The Cavaliers had 14 assists and one turnover. The Pistons had nine assists and five turnovers.

And on and on and on.

In just a few months, the ship will be sunk. At least, Joe Dumars will plundering for free agent treasure.

Rip(e)

Richard Hamilton scored 11 points. Coupled with the four points he scored against the Spurs on Thursday, this is his lowest-scoring two-game stretch since his second season.

It seemed like he was really thriving in his role off the bench, but he’s not completely there yet.

Rotation

Amir Johnson played nine minutes last night, bringing his total to 23 minutes in the three games since he was removed from the starting lineup. That includes a DNP-CD.

In the last two games, Jason Maxiell has 10.5 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes per game.

If Maxiell, who has been in Michael Curry’s doghouse for so much of the season, has already passed Johnson in the rotation, what was Johnson doing starting in the first place?

The likely answer is Dumars wanted to see what Johnson, still only 21, could do in extended minutes. Flip Saunders never really believed in Johnson, and it’s clear Curry has lost faith, too.

So why didn’t Dumars trade Johnson before his value plummeted with a benching?

Garbage man

Walter Herrmann might be the best garbage-time player in the league. Playing the most minutes in a game since November, Herrmann scored 13 points in 18 minutes. Ten of them came in the fourth quarter.

Live Blog: Detroit at Cleveland

Game Preview: Detroit at Cleveland

Date: Feb. 22, 2009

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Detroit record: 27-26

Cleveland record: 42-11

Detroit probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Allen
Iverson
Tayshaun
Prince
Antonio
McDyess
Rasheed
Wallace

Cleveland probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Mo
Williams
Tarence
Kinsey
Lebron
James
Ben
Wallace
Zydrunas
Ilgauskas

Spread: Detroit +9

Outlook: Mo Williams, who averages 17.7 points per game, is the highest-scoring teammates Lebron James has had.

That’s a huge reason why the Cavaliers are on pace to win 65 games, 15 more games than James has won in any other season.

Williams scored 23.5 points per game in Cleveland’s two matchups with the Pistons this season, a split series. And he has scored 28.0 points on 61.1 percent shooting during the Cavaliers’ current three-game winning streak.

Rodney Stuckey or Allen Iverson slowing Williams will go a long way in helping the Pistons to the upset. But given the way opposing point guards have torched Detroit lately, that’s unlikely to happen.

A silver lining might be the Pistons’ road record, or at least they claim it is. Tayshaun Prince, via Booth Newspapers:

“A lot of times, your concentration seems better on the road from the standpoint of, you’re by yourself against all odds. It’s better to play that way when you’re struggling.”

The Pistons are one of just four teams to have a better record at home than on the road. The Nets, Timberwolves and Clippers are the others.

But if the Pistons don’t win three games on this five-game road trip, they’ll join the rest of the league with a better home record than road record. And then it will even tougher for them to find straws to grasp at for inspiration.

  • Tonight’s game will be available on ESPN360. Unfortunately, the service is unavailable to those with Comcast or Time Warner.

All-Star Saturday Night in 3D

You’re probably a little All-Starred out, so I’m sorry this post is coming almost a week late. But when the school you cover’s starting quarterback transfers, that pushes everything back.

I had the chance to see All-Star Saturday Night in 3D and HD at at Brighton Towne Square, which was probably the nicest movie theater I’ve ever been to.

The quality of the effects varied quite a bit. A zoomed-out shot looked like watching any other television (that’s a theatre-sized, HD television). But when the shot was tight, the players really jumped off the screen.

Cameramen could walk on the court to film the pre-competition dance routine, so the 3D on that looked really sharp. The only other thing that stood out more was when someone stood up in front of a camera. It seemed like some was standing in the front of the theater.

It was pretty empty Saturday night, but I could see games in 3D start really taking off. Watching the game felt like watching from the first row. And costs of going to this was much less than a trip to the stadium would be. People filling the theatre and creating a quality environment is the next step.

Pistons pride

When time Team Detroit advanced to the second round of the Shooting Stars competition, and again when Arron Afflalo, Bill Laimbeer and Smith won the competition, those attending let out muffled cheers. The impression I got from everyone’s enthusiasm was, “I don’t want to care about the Shooting Stars, but it’s still Detroit, and I can’t help but root for Detroit.”

Thanks to Mike Wade from the NBA for setting this up.

Vacation

I’ll be out of town for the next few days, so coverage will be reduced. I’ll still post, but it won’t be as frequently.

Professional Game Coverage: San Antonio 83, Detroit 79