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Detroit Pistons’ knack of making games appear closer than they really are continues in loss to Los Angeles Lakers

So … how about that Jared Sullinger?

At least people won’t grasp at straws based on how well the bench played after the Pistons’ second unit combined to shoot 14-for-42 in the team’s 103-90 loss to the Lakers Wednesday.

The outcome isn’t a surprise. For the third time this season, the Pistons played a team that is among the league’s elite. For the third time (following losses to Boston and Portland), the Pistons were never in the game.

Rip Hamilton was ejected about five minutes into the game, and maybe having an extra taller defensive player to throw at Kobe Bryant would’ve mattered, but it’s doubtful considering how well everyone on the Lakers played and how poorly everyone on the Pistons played. There isn’t much to analyze in the loss. The Pistons didn’t move the ball well. They didn’t defend. And those two things aren’t much different than a lot of games this season, but the difference was the Pistons compounded the problems by not making shots. With Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey on the roster, the Pistons can usually count on at least one or two of them to have a reasonably solid game. But Prince was the only one of those players who shot above 42 percent, so that was the ballgame.

Vince Ellis of the Free Press Tweeted this before the game tonight:

Here come the fire Kuester e-mails. Like I said, not happening as long as team still competing.

I point this out not because I’m going to be one of those ‘Fire Everyone!’ type of people. Frankly, the ‘Fire Kuester!’ and ‘Fire Dumars!’ crowds drive me a little insane. But I just don’t understand how this team can be called competitive right now. Let’s check the body of work through their eight losses:

  • New Jersey and Oklahoma City: They were both games that a good team would’ve closed out and won, but that’s another debate. The Pistons were competitive in these games.
  • Chicago: Out-scored 57-28 in the second half. I understand the Pistons led big in the first half. But they lost this game by 10. Competing hard for the first half of a game and then getting out-scored by almost 30 in the second half = not competitive.
  • Boston: Celtics won by 23 and won every quarter, even the fourth, when Boston was deep into its bench.
  • Atlanta: Similar story to Chicago, except the Pistons had a smaller first half lead. Atlanta won the second half 50-37. Not competitive.
  • Portland: This was another blowout. Portland led by 11 after one, eight at the half, 11 after three and won by 22.
  • Golden State: A bad fourth quarter by the Warriors’ bench made this a close game in the closing minutes. Competing for one quarter = not competitive.
  • LA Lakers: The Pistons bench out-scored the Lakers bench by eight in the fourth quarter to make a blowout look like slightly less of a blowout. Not competitive.

I’m not an overly negative, complain about everything type of Pistons follower. But it’s absurd to call a team that has eight losses, six of them some variation of a blowout or a second half no-show, in 12 games competitive. It’s insulting to the intelligence of reasonable and unreasonable people alike to call the team competitive.

Last year’s Pistons team was really bad, but on many nights with an injury depleted lineup forcing them to play guys like Chucky Atkins and Chris Wilcox big minutes, they were competitive. Guys like Jonas Jerebko and Will Bynum and Ben Wallace played their hearts out in more losing causes than I care to go back and count. Even Stuckey, for as poorly as he played much of last season, played with effort, often taking a beating as the only remote scoring threat the Pistons had to put on the floor at times. That team played competitively for much of the season, even if they were no good.

This team? The one that has all of the key players who missed time last season back at full strength? The team that has had at least three public player-vs.-coach feuds in the last month? The one that is so segmented that you wonder if half of the locker room hates the other half’s guts? They are not competitive. They have underachieved to this point. Even if the team wasn’t going to be good regardless of those non-basketball things that keep happening, they should be better than this. They should seem more interested than this. And they shouldn’t come out completely disinterested every single time they play an elite team. Usually the opposite happens. Great title contending team like the Lakers on the road against a not good team in November? It’s typically the team like the Lakers that comes out flat as the not good team starts off with a flurry to prove everyone who thinks the team is lousy wrong. Three times, teams that all have much bigger games to look forward to, have much bigger concerns than the Pistons, have come out and pretty much established that they were going to win within the first 10 minutes or so of the game.

Nothing about the Pistons right now can be described as competitive.

So how about that Chris Wilcox?

The most impressive stat of the night? How about Wilcox finishing with a +4 +/- rating in his first action of the season. As you can tell, there weren’t really any positive stats to pull out of this one. But don’t undersell the accomplishment. Wilcox had the worst per-minute +/- rating of any Piston last season. He could step on the court and pretty much be guaranteed at least a -4. I don’t know how much Wilcox will continue to play, he’s pretty obviously the last man in the rotation. But he got about three minutes of action, was active and only took one poor shot.

McGrady seems OK

Tracy McGrady had to leave the game after rolling his ankle, and he looked to be in a lot of pain at the time, but he did end up returning. After the game on FSD, he didn’t seem too concerned about either the ankle or his knee, which he said he has "no issues" with right now.

What happened to Villanueva?

Man. I thought Villanueva and I had turned a corner. The problem that has plagued him throughout his career has been maddening inconsistency. We saw it in full effect last season, when he spent part of January looking like and All-Star and then February looking like he’d have a hard time making a D-League roster. He’s the definition of streaky, which is what made his first 11 games of the season so impressive. They weren’t all great performances, but he had avoided the really bad ones. Against the Lakers, he had his worst shooting night of the season. The Pistons need to win Sunday against Washington. They have some needed rest after their road trip and tonight’s game, but Villanueva is the individual who most definitely needs a bounce back game Sunday. He’s had a propensity in the past to let a bad shooting game turn into a prolonged shooting slump. If he plays strong on Sunday, it will go a long way in determining if he’s really turning a corner this season or if he still has all the same holes in his game.

28 Comments

  • Nov 17, 201011:30 pm
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    @Patrick
    You might want to fix the title on this story bud. You got it as ‘Pistons knack of looking games look closer than they are continues in loss to Lakers’…i am guessing you meant ‘Pistons knack of making games look closer than they are continues in loss to Lakers’. I am sure you just wanted to get this story over and done with though :-)

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Detroit Pistons and Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered Feed. PistonPowered Feed said: Pistons knack of looking games look closer than they are continues in loss to Lakers: So … how about that Jared … http://bit.ly/b7ZxOv [...]

  • Nov 18, 201012:28 am
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    Maybe I’ll sing a different tune once I have a look at the box score, but just from having watched the game this reads a little harshly to me.
    What I didn’t like:
    - The Pistons chronic third quarter impotence. I think there’s been one game, maybe two so far this season in which they’ve been better than horrible to start the second half. Is this a coaching thing?
    - The pace. Stuckey had a great first quarter pushing the ball like he’s always said he wants to do. Why won’t anyone let him do it? Do Dumars and/or the coaching staff hate excitement and scoring? Why? Those are nice things.
    - Kobe should not have been allowed to go off early like that. Where was the defense? He got his rhythm and after that it didn’t matter how well contested the shot was.
    What I did like:
    - Tayshaun looked good. He made some shots early that appeared pretty contested from where I was sitting, but they went down smooth. Some scrappier scoring later in the game and a block on Kobe never hurts.
    - Austin Daye is going to be real nice at small forward and maybe shooting guard once (if?) those wings ever get thinned out. I love that the Pistons are a perimeter threat this year and Daye’s as big a part of that as anyone. Can’t defend at power forward though, and isn’t getting the help he needs. Looking forward to seeing him out there with a healthy Jerebko.
    - Greg Monroe looks really promising to me. I don’t get some of the negativity I see about him (not speaking of this post). His stats aren’t shiny yet, but he rebounds well, plays hard and smart, and is disruptive on defense, mostly with steals and deflections. As he gains experience and becomes more comfortable I think we’ll see his shooting percentages and assists go up and his turnovers go down. He’s also quite mobile for his size and reputation.
    - Am I going to find that Stuckey shot a really low percentage when I check the box score? He stood out to me in the first and fourth quarters, playing hard even when there was less than a Tracy-McGrady-13-point-miracle-chance of a win. He also had some good defensive possessions against Kobe.
    - The transition defense didn’t make me throw up in dismay. Keeping the turnovers down obviously played a role in this.
    The Pistons lost and they were clearly the worse team out there, but I don’t think effort was the problem and that’s a big deal. The Pistons are decidedly worse than the defending champs. But hey, the Lakers played hard and they played well and the Pistons weren’t going to get a win tonight without some help from their opponent. Granted my standards are pretty low these days, but this was far from their worst game this year despite the point differential.
    Here’s to hoping the team gets sold soon so some trades can be made (we all know it’s over due).

  • Nov 18, 20101:17 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Thanks, Gmehl.

  • Nov 18, 20101:18 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Jeremy, I completely agree on the effort. When the Pistons fell behind big early, it wasn’t for lack of trying. They were just completely over-matched. And I agree it’s a big deal. Detroit didn’t play hard against Boston and Portland.

  • Nov 18, 20101:33 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    1) what’s going on here? suddenly no love for the bench?? the bench comparison was a virtual BLOWOUT in favor of the stones!! we almost DOUBLED their bench scoring.
     
    2) i figured out the third quarter thing. it’s like this. i don’t know why it took me so long to put my finger on it. here goes:
     
    most legitimate NBA teams can put a five-man unit on the floor that can smash us to bits. when another team plays us, they understand that the first half doesn’t matter. they just have to keep the game close and come out of halftime playing solid fundamental basketball, and we don’t stand a chance. i think our third quarters have much less to do with us as with the nature of NBA games. they just gotta come out firing in the third and, if necessary, clamp down in the last six minutes (see: atlanta). GSW did it in the nick of time. charlotte’s only real mistake was waiting too long to clamp down.
     
    and a for our losses, you can’t ignore the anomaly that was the clippers “win,” an overtime gifted to us. we lost nine games, the clippers just gave the game back.

  • Nov 18, 20101:35 am
    by nuetes

    Reply

    Wow this article is a little out of the ordinary for Hayes. Did Laser write this? This seems like the first ‘keepin it real’ rant I’ve seen in awhile outside of the comment section. I don’t know that even I can echo it. It’s a matter of being overmatched pure and simple. The Lakers front court destroyed us. Oh and there is that Kobe guy, whoever he is. Never heard of him before but he played pretty good.
     
    This came down to the Pistons playing a real team. A championship winner/contender. And it didn’t even look like the Lakers were trying until the start of the 2nd half. They came out in the 3rd playing like championship contenders. And we were getting destroyed by a half-assed effort by the Lakers in the first half.
     
    Still this article is a reactionary take to this game. CV had a bad game and all of a sudden it’s ‘what happened to CV?’. Couldn’t expect the dude to keep it up. His career has been riddled with inconsistency. I have to give him credit for putting together a pretty good stretch of consistency.
     
    As far as being competitive – the Pistons so far have been more competitive than I thought they would be, but that says more about my expectations. This just isn’t a very good team, but it is capable of beating worse teams. We’ve beaten the teams we should have beaten so far and lost to the teams we should have lost to. That’s how I see it. If we start to losing to teams I expect to beat then we have some issues. For instance if we lose to the Wizards we might have some serious issues. Like being really bad, but that shouldn’t be a huge surprise given the lack of talent and coaching. Just unexpected.

  • Nov 18, 20102:07 am
    by nuetes

    Reply

    I agree with Laser
     
    The 3rd quarter meltdowns are probably due more to the fact the other team is actually trying than it is the fact the Pistons are having a letdown. This team simply isn’t that good. Half-time adjustments combined with solid execution on the opponents part has made us look like complete garbage coming out of half-time.
     
    I did some homework and the Pistons have been outscored by 60 points in the 3rd, or by an average of 5 points per game. Our season point differential is -5.4 ppg. So the 3rd is killing us. Out of the 12 games, we’ve only won two 3rd quarters. One against OKC by 1 point, and the other against GS where we were getting blown out so they probably came out flat and didn’t care, and we lost both of those games.

  • Nov 18, 20107:57 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    let me point out that other than Austin Daye (who inbounds the ball off other team’s made baskets) none of the Piston starters want to run with Stuckey. Rip, Prince, & Big Ben have been walking the ball up the court for their whole careers as Pistons and it is obvious that they are not going to change now.

    if the Pistons want to push the pace, they should get Stuckey at least one athletic wing who wants to run.

    and the third quarter: can you say half time adjustments – something the Pistons never seem to make but the other teams coaches are good at.

  • Nov 18, 20108:33 am
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    You think the vets are making the call on tempo? I think it’s a coaching thing. Have any any of them said they didn’t want to run or is the assumption just based on past style? I love Tay on the break and Rip “I’m the Best Conditioned Player in the League” Hamilton shouldn’t be complaining about it either. I bet Ben could make some nice outlet passes for us.
     
    Maybe having a little fun out there would lighten the team mood a little.
     
    Half time adjustments does seem the likeliest answer. It doesn’t seem like something Q should be so terrible at though. There is talent on this team and I can’t help but believe the main problem is chemistry (and the front line of course). Could it be that they’re just having a miserable time in there? Is Q giving de-motivational speeches? Was that when Jonas would give everyone hugs before he got injured?

  • Nov 18, 20108:38 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Jeremy:
    “Am I going to find that Stuckey shot a really low percentage when I check the box score? He stood out to me in the first and fourth quarters, playing hard even when there was less than a Tracy-McGrady-13-point-miracle-chance of a win. He also had some good defensive possessions against Kobe.”
    Stuckey’s defense was OK at times, but again, Bryant hasn’t been shooting well this season and he made 11-of-20 shots and scored 33 without even playing the fourth quarter. So I’d be hesitant to say that anyone had any kind of defensive success against him. Bryant filled up the stat sheet and did it really efficiently.
    I believe Stuckey had all four of his assists in the first half as well and he only shot 7-for-17.
    It wasn’t a dreadful showing by him, there were certainly Pistons who played much worse, but I wouldn’t say that there were any positives to take away from his performance either.

  • Nov 18, 20108:42 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Feldman:
    “It wasn’t for lack of trying. They were just completely over-matched.”
    I’m not equating “effort” or “trying” with competitiveness. I took exception to them being described as “competitive.” I’m sure most nights they are trying really hard. But they just aren’t competitive, they aren’t emotional and no one seems to take exception to losing this badly, save for Prince and maybe Wallace.

  • Nov 18, 20108:45 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Laser:
    “and a for our losses, you can’t ignore the anomaly that was the clippers “win,” an overtime gifted to us. we lost nine games, the clippers just gave the game back.”
    I don’t buy that reasoning. If I came on here and wrote, “The Pistons beat the Nets and Thunder, but just gave those games back,” which they did, and I was trying to say that those were really wins instead of losses, you’d (rightfully) call me out.
    A win is a win. The Pistons still had to make plays after the Clippers made mistakes, and they did make those plays. The game shouldn’t have been that close, but it happens.

  • Nov 18, 20108:50 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    “Still this article is a reactionary take to this game. CV had a bad game and all of a sudden it’s ‘what happened to CV?’. Couldn’t expect the dude to keep it up. His career has been riddled with inconsistency. I have to give him credit for putting together a pretty good stretch of consistency.”
    As I said in the post, he’s been pretty consistent this season. But it’s important to watch how he responds from this game. It’s not just that he’s been inconsistent in his career. It’s that he’ll have a horrid shooting night that quickly turns into a horrid shooting two weeks.
    That, to me, is the single biggest weakness in his game that he has to improve if he’s going to be a reliable player on a good team. You can’t have a guy who, really, has been their first or second best offensive player this season, go into the tank for a prolonged stretch.
    You’re right, it was just one game, for now. But this is going to be the true mark of how much Villanueva has improved, whether or not he can avoid those major slumps that have plagued him over the years.

  • Nov 18, 20108:52 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:
    “none of the Piston starters want to run with Stuckey.”
    That has been the case since Stuckey was put in the starting lineup. He’s better at a faster pace. Prince and Hamilton are halfcourt players. They are comfortable at a slower pace. As we’ve seen this season, when there are style conflicts like that, guess who wins?

  • Nov 18, 201012:51 pm
    by Brian

    Reply

    In the first half, when there was still some possibility of a competitive game, what struck me was just how easily Pau Gasol scored, and how horribly overmatched our PFs were against Lamar Odom. Our “bigs” were overmatched and overwhelmed.

  • Nov 18, 20104:46 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    @hayes: no, no. you’re missing my point. there’s a reason i called the clipps game an anomaly. i really detest the “ifs and buts” game, but this one was something i don’t remember seeing before. when you’re up by 1 with a full shot clock, the basketball game is over. now it’s down to the free throw game, and you have to SUCK in a truly special way to lose the free throw game in the manner that LAC did. if it was eric gordon splitting those free throws, i’d be singing a different tune. when they put the ball in bledsoe’s hands to be fouled, they handed us overtime on a silver platter.
     
    the nets and thunder beat us “fair and square.” they outplayed us down the stretch. they made plays at the end. it’s a different story when you go into the free throw game ahead. surely you understand the difference. what the clippers did wrong had nothing to do with basketball; they just made the brain fart of the century and handed a hungry team overtime.
     
    you won’t catch me making excuses for why we didn’t really deserve wins (and god knows there won’t be many wins to nitpick), but i’m convinced on this one. it’s a whole other animal when you’re ahead to start the free throw game and put the ball in the hands of someone who’s statistically probable to split the pair.

  • Nov 18, 20104:51 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    @brian: are you kidding me?? what was it about this game that made you think there was the possibility of a competitive game?? you’ve got to be kidding me. just because it’s a 3 point game, doesn’t mean the pistons had a CHANCE IN HELL of winning. you saw how easily the lakers scored, as in: at will. they’re just not going to go out there full throttle for 48 minutes and stomp us to death. few teams will. they’ll keep it close and finish strong. that’s the formula for beating bad teams. we stood ZERO chance.
     
    you can’t possibly have a grasp of basketball if you think the close score was an indicator of a competitive game.

  • [...] Arguing that it’s wrong to label the 4-8, cellar-dwelling Pistons a “competitive” team so [...]

  • Nov 18, 20107:17 pm
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    @Patrick
     
    I also wouldn’t say that defense on Kobe was “successful”, but playing good defense on him doesn’t necessarily equate to success. He got going early with some open transition shots, found his rhythm, and made more difficult, contested shots as the game went on. I didn’t pay close enough attention to claim that Stuckey played good D on him the whole time, but I will say again I saw some nice defensive sequences from him.
     
    I also noticed him making a number of contested transition shots that, in years past, he likely would have missed. I think that’s a positive.
     
    Also, while it’s certainly true that a good point guard will make things easier for his teammates, you can’t get an assist by yourself. He’ll get his dimes if the roster ever evens out and the team develops some chemistry. And of course his assist rate is always going to be affected by how well his teammates are shooting.
     
    It’s too bad his off-season work on the jump shot, yet again, doesn’t seem to have made much difference.

  • Nov 18, 20107:31 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @patrick

    yes, we know how it turns out. Stuckey pushes the ball by himself. Now since Daye is willing to run the floor, is not a bad finisher in traffic because of his length and is a solid option for the kickout jumpshot if Rodney goes in the lane and looks to pass- why not have Ben or Rip inbound the ball so Daye can run with Stuckey. But no, Daye is the young player so he has to inbound the ball. Coaching. Q needs to be fired. It is a small thing, but there are 20 more like it that i can point out. Half of them have to do with Q being unwilling to challenge the vets and half of them have to do with Q not being a very smart coach.

  • Nov 18, 201011:05 pm
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    Relevant to the Stuckey discussion, from the latest mailbag:


    Odeh (Dearborn Heights, Mich.): Was there a reason Stuckey was sitting for the most part of Golden State’s 22-0 run? I don’t believe he was in any foul trouble and it was clear that point guard was our weakest position on the floor during that stretch.



    Langlois: Stuckey came out of the game with two fouls with 4:54 left in the first quarter with the Pistons ahead 19-18 after Monta Ellis made his free throws as a result of Stuckey’s foul. Will Bynum replaced him at point guard and played the rest of the quarter. Golden State led 34-21 after one, outscoring the Pistons 16-2 over the final 4:54. Ben Gordon and Tracy McGrady started the second quarter. Gordon picked up three quick fouls and Stuckey replaced him at 9:40 of the second with the Warriors leading 42-21. So, yeah, that was a disastrous seven-plus minutes that Stuckey sat out, the Pistons outscored 24-2. That’s a little earlier than Stuckey comes out – Kuester has been sending Bynum into the game with about three minutes left in the first quarter – but sitting out seven minutes isn’t an unusually long break for him. The Pistons have to be better than that when Stuckey sits.

  • Nov 19, 20101:47 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    why are we picking apart this one game? so bynum laid an egg. stuckey lays eggs for a living. stuckey is a big part of what’s wrong with this team.

  • Nov 19, 20107:55 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    Bynum has laid an egg in every game he has played so far this season.

    Stuckey is not the problem. Rip & Tay & the lack of a inside presence are the problem.

  • Nov 19, 20108:37 am
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    The problem with Bynum is that his effectiveness drops off sharply when he is injured and coming off an injury. I love watching him play when he’s healthy but when he’s not he loses the explosiveness that his game is based on.

  • Nov 19, 20102:50 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    agreed on bynum. and he’s been marginalized WAAAY too much to hold his performance against him. what does he get to play? five minutes to start the second quarter, five minutes to start the fourth and scraps? there isn’t much room for him to operate with in this backcourt and system. and he’s obviously a bit hobbled.
     
    also, tayshaun is decidedly not the problem here. he’s been better than ok. that win at sacramento came down to tayshaun having a matchup advantage over francisco garcia and capitalizing on it with strong play and good decisions down the stretch. he’s been fine. he needs to go, but not because he plays bad.

  • Nov 19, 20109:33 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    laser – bynum has been coming in on his regular rotation. if he isn’t playing well enough to stay on the floor – you now want to call it marginalized??? give me a break. he may still be hampered by that hammy but he has been playing like shit. I hope he gets it together. i like Will. But right now, the Pistons are at a big disadvantage at point guard when they take Stuckey out of the game.

    Tay has come up big for the Pistons as a go to scorer in several games. But he has mainly done it by pounding the ball on those iso’s from the wing. He has also been beaten on defense a lot this year and he could be giving more help on the boards since we all know the Pistons need it.

    But he is still a good and effective player. it is mainly for the psychological health of the team that he needs to be moved. plus two of our best young players play his positon (daye & jj) and of course there is the tradable contract. if Joe doesn’t maximize that opportunity, i will get on your fire Dumars bandwagon.

  • Nov 20, 20108:49 am
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    Not to mention the fact that if they don’t trade Tay this year they’ll just lose him to unrestricted free agency next summer.

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