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Despite spectacular Blake Griffin dunks and Eric Gordon’s offense, Pistons hold on to get first road win of the season

In a game where Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Austin Daye were the Pistons’ best offensive options, Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince combined to shoot the ball 38 times compared to just 27 shots for the much more efficient, better-shooting options on the team.

Earlier this week, Prince was quoted saying, “Even our wins don’t feel like wins.” The Clippers game was a perfect example of why that is. It’s becoming pretty clear that Prince, in particular, doesn’t have much interest in ceding the ‘primary option’ role even with evidence pretty clear, at least offensively, that the Pistons are more fluid when he is not dominating the ball.

Now, in this particular game, things worked out. Hamilton, Stuckey and Prince struggled the entire game shooting the ball, then all three hit huge shots in the fourth quarter to tie it, and then made plays in overtime to come away with a 113-107 win over the Clippers.

It was a needed win, but not a win that gave any clues as to how some of the growing whispers of chemistry issues will get worked out.

This sequence epitomizes why the “What the hell is wrong?” questions keep coming up. In overtime with about two minutes left, the Pistons got an offensive rebound. It got tossed into Prince, who was posting up on the wing, but didn’t necessarily have great position. John Kuester called a timeout, presumably to get a better shot. Prince reacted like he was surprised that a timeout was called, then he tossed the ball down, then he slumped his head and shoulders down, then he slowly crept to the bench. Now Prince has never been the boisterous, emotional type out on the court, so maybe it’s nothing. But the Pistons had just gone up two and got the ball back in a game they really needed to win, and there just wasn’t a sense of excitement from Prince or anyone really. You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking if they were winning or down 30.

The Pistons picked up their first road win of the season, it was hard-fought, entertaining and I don’t mean to take away from that. Even if the body language constantly looks emotionless, it’s not like guys aren’t playing hard. Prince had a great save under the Clippers basket in overtime. Hamilton hit a key shot in regulation to tie it. Stuckey had a nice drive and finish with a foul to get a three-point play in overtime.

Maybe if they can pick up a win at Sacramento on Sunday and repeat their earlier season performance against Golden State on Monday and come home with a successful trip against, other than Portland, some teams that are very beatable, that’ll reignite some of the passion that seems to be lacking. But the win against the Clippers, while important, didn’t do much to disprove some of the feelings Prince expressed in his quote.

Stuckey could take a lesson from Bledsoe

Earlier this week, Dan Feldman wrote a post defending the organization’s loyalty to the Stuckey-as-point-guard experiment, with the premise being that athletically and physically, Stuckey is the prototype of the ‘new breed’ of NBA point guard. He might not get it, and with each season, it’s become more likely that he won’t get it. But whatever chance there is left that he can put it together as a point guard/playmaker is a potential high reward if it works out. Stuckey has had flashes this season of really competent point guard play, and those have occurred when he’s been fearlessly attacking the basket, pushing the ball up quickly on makes or misses and not over-thinking the “should I shoot or pass?” situations too much. He just goes out and plays his style. That’s the same thing that Eric Bledsoe, another strong, young and explosive point guard did for the Clippers. Bledsoe made some mistakes, particularly early with some turnovers (forced by good defense by Stuckey), but it was his aggressiveness that helped the team get back in the game and take the lead in the second half. The Pistons have a pair of really fast point guards in Stuckey and Will Bynum. They don’t have to be a fast-breaking team, but why not take advantage of their speed? Bledsoe continuously running the ball up caused the Pistons defense to get on its heels and he created several open looks for shooters Eric Gordon and Rasual Butler.

Start sweating the little things

With the Pistons up nine and only about five seconds left in the first quarter, the Pistons allowed Eric Gordon to drive coast-to-coast and get a layup just before time expired. With the Pistons up 10 and Gordon shooting a free throw for the Clippers with one second left in the first half, Gordon missed the free throw and Craig Smith got an offensive rebound and put-back as time expired to cut the lead to eight. With less than nine minutes to go in the game and the Pistons up two, Jason Maxiell fouled Gordon on a short jumper, Gordon made the shot and Maxiell picked up a technical on the play. Four-point swing for no reason. Those are all things that, on their own, seem relatively minor. But they also represent four or five free points that teams just can’t afford to give up when they constantly play close games.

Nice defensive switch in fourth

Eric Gordon terrorized the Pistons in the fourth quarter, so it was no surprise with the game tied the Clippers would put the ball in his hands to try and win it. Kuester made a nice adjustment (one that would’ve been interesting to see earlier in the quarter, but better late than never), switching Prince onto Gordon that possession. Prince’s length bothered Gordon, who isn’t very tall for a shooting guard, he stumbled trying to get around Prince and lost the ball.

Those pesky third quarters

Once again, the Pistons came out of halftime after a good start and lost a lead. Coming into the game, the Pistons were averaging a -5.9 point differential per third quarter, third worst in the league. That number will get worse after they were outscored 27-17 against the Clippers.

A big reason the Pistons have had third quarter troubles is they are relatively easy to make adjustments against. The Clippers halftime adjustment was simple: play defense. Maybe don’t give Gordon, Villanueva and Daye a five-foot cushion to shoot threes. In the third, the Clippers closed out on shooters much better, the Pistons stopped getting open jumpers and players were forced into having to create more, something that no player on the roster is really good at doing on a consistent basis.

Daye’s two halves

Daye was the story in the first quarter. He finally wasn’t overmatched defensively by an opposing power forward, as the Clippers started hybrid forward Al-Farouq Aminu for the injured Chris Kaman. Daye scored nine points off the bat. But there was a common way he was scoring those points: he was either catching and shooting, or he was taking no more than one dribble and elevating for his shot.

In the second half, he turned the ball over twice in the third quarter because he started to over-dribble. Daye isn’t quick off the dribble. He’s great at getting to a spot he’s comfortable shooting in just one dribble. But when he tries to post up and back someone down or when he tries to face up and drive past someone, he’s ineffective. Daye’s not a creator right now. If he can’t get his shot quickly, he needs to kick the ball back out.

His shot looked great again, and he’s more and more assertive in taking it each game, but he does have to strike that balance where he’s confident enough to shoot, but not so confident that he begins to do more than he’s capable of with the ball.

Maxiell gets Monroe’s minutes

Maxiell had a nice performance after being buried on the bench a little for a few games. He was physical with Blake Griffin (the two got in a couple tangles where some elbows were thrown wildly by both guys) and he was active on offense, hanging out around the basket and scoring on some dump-offs. His minutes came at the expense of Greg Monroe.

Monroe didn’t play in the first two games because Kuester didn’t feel like he had been playing with enough energy. Then, Monroe started getting some minutes and responded with really solid production. Now, the last two games, he’s kind of disappeared again. Against the Clippers, he was really tentative in the few first half minutes he played. He caught the ball inside and instead of going straight up strong against the defender, undersized forward Craig Smith, he did a pump fake, allowed the defense to recover and didn’t get a good shot off, although he got fouled.

Inconsistent energy was a knock on Monroe in college, so it will be interesting to see how the Pistons manage his ups and downs. Against the Clips, he didn’t bring it in his stint in the first half, so Maxiell replaced him and took the minutes in the second half that had been going to him.

Villanueva for Sixth Man of the Year?

One positive to take away from the early season is that the Pistons seem to finally know how to use Villanueva. He was in and out of the rotation a bit last year because Kuester wanted some (any?) effort on defense from him. This year, Villanueva has responded. He’s not ever going to be a traditional big (as evidenced by his one rebound against the Clippers). This year though, he’s shown a willingness to at least put his body on people. He’s drawn charges this season, something I don’t ever remember seeing him do much last year. He’s blocked a couple shots. And the one skill that he brings that is really useful — scoring — has been more consistent so far. Villanueva has been in double figures off the bench in eight of nine games.

He’s still streaky, it would still be nice if he’d rebound just a little bit, but he comes off the bench every night as a matchup problem for the opposing team, and he’ll be among the Sixth Man candidates by season’s end if he keeps up the effort.

Love for Love

Not Pistons related, but check out what Kevin Love did last night. And based on the highlights, at least a few of his boards were courtesy of Darko misses. You’re welcome for him, Kevin.

18 Comments

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Detroit Pistons and Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered Feed. PistonPowered Feed said: Despite spectacular Blake Griffin dunks and Eric Gordon’s offense, Pistons hold on to get first road win of the … http://bit.ly/bg7nHS [...]

  • Nov 13, 20108:46 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @Patrick

    most competent & complete analysis of a game yet. nice article.
    i would point out that in summer league Daye both posted people and took them off the dribble. I think it is just a matter of playing time, confidence, and learning to see the situation on the floor.

    Daye is a little immature yet – not just physically, but emotionally as well. We forget how young he is. But i think he has that killer instinct and will develop into a very good crunch time player. 
    how can you only get 1 rebound in 35 minutes? i could get 1 rebound and i’m 55 years old and slightly under 6 foot.

  • Nov 13, 201010:57 am
    by Alan

    Reply

    along the lines of “even our wins don’t feel like wins.”  I think if Rip hits that jumper at the end of regulation, this feels like a win.  but anyhow, we’ll take it.  1st place in the Central has just one more win than us.

  • Nov 13, 20102:05 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Alan:

    Exactly. I don’t think anyone was expecting the Central to be great. But Milwaukee and Chicago are both looking like they havent’t progressed much, although Chicago will be different when Boozer is healthy I’m sure.

  • Nov 13, 20103:44 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    ok i hate to be a grinch (not at all), but talk about a win not feeling like a win! i don’t like to play the “IF” game, but when it’s as obvious and fundamental mistake as this, it needs to be pointed out: this game probably doesn’t even go to overtime if the clipps inbound the ball (up one point with just a full shot clock left) to anyone other than BLEDSOE. what kind of bizarre, dysfunctional sh*t is that? it’s the equivalent of us inbounding to wallace to immediately get put on the line. WHO DOES THAT??? only the clippers. they handed us the game right there.
     
    this team has won 1/3 of its games, and none of them should feel remotely satisfying to anyone. we had to take the davis-and-kaman-less (with a beat up eric gordon), practically win-less clipps to an overtime they handed us on a silver platter to squeeze out the least satisfying win yet.
     
    the only thing remotely redeeming about the way this one played out is that if we ended up losing in OT, it could have been one of our worst losses. maybe the worst. so that’s your silver lining. but i don’t think the pistons “learned” how to win. i think they just go out there, stuckey bullies his way into the paint, sometimes his shots will fall. sometimes rip’s isolation shots will fall, and prince’s, and villa’s threes. but the team’s learned nothing about itself. so we barely beat the worst team in the league in a game they handed us, looked ugly doing it, and needed an overtime frame.
     
    through 9 games i don’t think we’ve had 10 easy buckets. every win like this is a step in the wrong direction.
     
    and ben gordon took, what, 5 shots? our top scorer, our most efficient shooter, he comes off the bench behind stuckey and rip to enjoy 7, 6 and 5 shots respectively in the past three games since rip’s been back. how can anyone think this is a tenable situation??

  • Nov 13, 20105:35 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Laser:
    Each quarter just got progressively worse. Good first quarter where it actually looked like the team would, as they should, take advantage of a really depleted team. Then, the defense got bad when the second unit came in the second, and the Clips got back in it a bit, but the bench players at least managed to start scoring and build a lead back up. Then the wheels fell off in the third quarter. Then the fourth quarter reverted back to the Prince/Hamilton taking turns wasting 18 seconds of the shot clock to miss a makeable shot. Then, as you say, they got lucky to force overtime. Also, when you said this:
    “what kind of bizarre, dysfunctional sh*t is that?”
    It’s Vinny Del Negro. He’s the John Kuester/Michael Curry of the Western Conference.
    Basically, the Pistons won because the Clippers ran out of gas. They played harder, were more aggressive and were more fun to watch. Gordon/Bledsoe just couldn’t really come out of the game and Griffin is awesome, but he still has a hole or two in his game defensively.
    I would like to point out that when you said the other day all your predictions are coming true. Most are. But I do believe you predicted an 0-12 start at one time.

  • Nov 13, 20105:46 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    ha. fair point, but to be specific, i said that IF they couldn’t beat the bobcats, 0-12 was a real possibility. cause if you’re not beating the bobcats, who can you beat? the ‘cats put up a fight, but they’re the only team in the league that voluntarily had a worse offseason than we did, in that their only two moves were to dump their starting PG and C. for the record, i think we’re worse than anyone but maybe the ‘cats, raptors and perhaps wolves (though i’m not sure about any of those). truth is, if the ‘cats locked down on us TWO minutes earlier than they did, we could easily have lost that one.

  • Nov 13, 20107:49 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    chicago is missing the player who set the tone for their defense. they will be better ofensively when Booser comes back but they have a hole at the 2 guard where their heart used to be.

    On Milwaukee Bogut is still playing in pain and will be that way all season. Jennings seems to have taken a step back so far. I haven’t seen them play yet, only reading box scores. It will be interesting to see how Maggette fits into that team. 

    @laser – yes, our best player has been sent to the bench because of dysfunctional team dynamics. Think we could pry a player away from Sac for Rip?

  • Nov 13, 20108:21 pm
    by xerowattbulb

    Reply

    one thing i noticed- it seems like Stuckey is starting to get calls in his favor.  i’ve thought for the last two years that if he could stick out the period of time it takes for some players to get respect from the refs, his game would go WAY up.  billups had that same problem for the longest time, he just couldn’t get a call.  if Stuckey keeps playing at this level, he’s a reliable three point shot away from being a top half of the league point guard….maybe even top dozen.

  • Nov 13, 20109:18 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    as far as the division goes – stealing from pcb’s post -
     
    Chicago is missing probably their best player, even though he’s never actually played for them yet. And they lost Hinrich which is a somewhat undervalued thing that pcb pointed out. I expect them to take control of this division with a healthy Boozer. They just need to hang around for now.
     
    Milwuakee hasn’t gotten the same production from certain players. Maggette is who he is, and I suspect has given them what they thought he would. Bench scoring and a guy that is going to get to the line a crap load. Jennings has improved though. He’s shooting better, and has higher rebound and assist totals, and lower turnover totals. I still think Milwaukee has the players to be in it, but they haven’t performed yet. Salmons is the biggest disappointment.
     
    Cleveland is about where I thought they’d be. I think they can fight for almost .500 this year. Hickson is pretty good. It’s just going to take a lot of effort on their part to get there, and I think they are up for it because they want to prove doubters wrong. They probably work the hardest for wins of any team in the league.
     
    Indiana is similar to the Pistons in that they rely heavily on jump shots and streaky shooting out of guys like Granger, Dunleavy, and Collison. They do have a positive point differential which suggests they could be a decent .500ish team. And Hibbert has been really good on the glass.
     
    Detroit, well, we know.
     
    1/10th season readjusted central finish guesstimation:
     
    1. chicago 2. milwuakee 3. indiana 4. cleveland 5. detroit
     
    but remember milwaukee went on a tear last year at one point going 18-4 over a 22 game stretch after acquiring salmons. they go as salmons goes and he played great for them last season. if he picks it up they’ll get back on track so i’ll still say they finish runner up in the division.

  • Nov 13, 20109:41 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:
    Boozer is good for sure, but I’m in wait and see mode with him. If you look at his history, his production increases as he gets closer to hitting free agency. He had a great last season in Cleveland, then went to Utah and had mysterious injuries, didn’t seem that interested in playing then miraculously returned to All-Star status the last two years. He signs in Chicago, and in the first year of his long term deal, he has a weird injury reportedly tripping over a suitcase. It’s possible he’s just unlucky I guess, but I’d like to see him get over the “contract year” phenomenon that has followed him.

  • Nov 13, 20109:45 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @xerowatt:
    Getting to the line 5.4 times per game is respectable, and he did improve in that department last year from his second season, so that is a good sign.
    My problem with him is still field goal percentage. He rarely shoots threes. He rarely shoots from outside 15 feet. He’s big, strong, and can elevate and go over people. He’s only shooting 43.5 percent this year. For the shots he’s getting, he should be in the 47-48ish range, and that’s the one area where he’s really shown no improvement throughout his career.

  • Nov 13, 20109:52 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    Other than my issue with Boozer that I expressed above, Chicago also has a major weakness that he won’t address. Other than Korver, they don’t have good perimeter shooting. When Boozer is healthy, their offense is going to consist of Rose attacking the basket or Boozer posting up. For either style to be really successful, they have to have shooters on the floor to get better spacing. People can cheat inside off of Deng and Brewer, and Boozer is already an undersized PF height-wise, so he’ll have things tougher in Chicago than he did in Utah, a team that’s always had great spacing.
    Milwaukee will get better if Bogut gets healthier. I hated the Gooden signing and Salmons extension. Salmons is fine, but he and Maggette are a bit redundant, and playing both of them at the same time means Delfino, who might actually be better than both of them, gets squeezed. They’re still good, they just don’t have pieces that fit into roles as well as they did last year.
    Indiana is better than I though. Cleveland I expect to fade when the whole “proving we weren’t a one man show” thing wears off. It doesn’t make sense for them to hold onto complimentary pieces that could bring back picks or expiring contracts. Contenders would be interested in Jamison, Sessions or Mo Williams, and virtually any good team in the league would have major use for Varejao.
    The Central as a whole is just one division full of incomplete teams that either need a piece, have too many redundant pieces or both.

  • Nov 14, 20103:28 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    i could care less about stuckey’s shooting. we have shooters. all we have are shooters. i know he needs to be a threat, but i’m not concerned with his scoring. he can score, and he can shoot well enough to be a threat. look at rondo. even when nobody respected his shot, he made great plays. he read the floor, read the defense, made the right pass at the right time. i’m concerned with his ability not only to make the “right” decision more often (and maybe he’s a bit improved in that area) but to use his physical tools to make other people better. nash used to always penetrate to pass, but since there’s four other players on the floor, you never know where he’s going to send it (and our outside shooters are at least a credible threat). if a guard always penetrates to score, like stuckey, you know exactly where he’s going. give me a progression as a distributor, then we’ll talk 3 pointer. and if he can do it all, he’ll be elite. but he won’t.

  • Nov 14, 20109:54 am
    by Rob Wessels

    Reply

    The Central played fantastic. Chicago is done for this season they can’t cover well.

    Go Central

  • Nov 14, 201010:45 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Laser
    My point isn’t that he needs to score more. He needs to finish much better. Rondo, Nash, Parker, all those playmaking guys, shoot close to 50 percent or even a little over 50 percent sometimes.
    If his scoring average dipped to 12 or 13 a game, but he was hitting 48-50 percent of his shots, he’d be a much better player.

  • Nov 14, 201011:47 am
    by nuetes

    Reply

    c’mon Patrick we all know that’s never going to happen. It might come back to what Laser was going on about. Decision making. Just as decision making is important in passing it’s important in shooting. Stuckey does deserve some credit for his assist/to ratio, and his ability to avoid turnovers. That’s also part of his decision making. He plays it super safe as a passer, but reckless as a scorer.

  • Nov 14, 20102:48 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    yeah he does play it SUPER safe as a passer. as in, has he made one “good pass” yet this season? i mean, he’s actually dropped the ball off to a big man once or twice, and a few games ago he decided to try drive-and-kick a few times in the same game! but no impressive passes that display court vision, awareness, playmaking instincts. it’s easy to take care of the ball when all of your passes are around the horn. worst passing PG in the league?

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