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Detroit Pistons let Steve Nash get a jump on his New Year’s plans in blowout loss to Phoenix

On the Pistons first offensive possession against Phoenix Friday, they dumped the ball into the post to Charlie Villanueva, who was being guarded by Mickael Pietrus, a shooting guard who the Suns started at power forward. Villanueva easily backed down Pietrus and converted a hook shot inside.

Then the Pistons continuously settled for quick jumpers, most of which missed their mark, as the team shot just 40 percent and lost to the Suns 92-75.

Following comments from Pistons fans on Twitter throughout the game, one common theme kept coming up: how can the Pistons continuously follow good wins, like Wednesday’s over Boston, with pitiful showings against mediocre or bad teams? It’s a maddening trend, I’ll admit, but the loss to Phoenix is not a totally unexplainable thing. In reality, it’s pretty simple why they lost: they needed Rodney Stuckey.

This might seem a little bi-polar of me considering I’ve called for Tracy McGrady to take minutes from Stuckey at the point guard spot for going on three weeks or so now. But the Pistons had two major issues against the Suns: they didn’t have a reliable second ball-handler to put in the game when the Suns started aggressively trapping McGrady with long, quick players and when the Pistons’ jumpers were failing them, they had no player who could get shots in the paint.

There are a lot of things that Stuckey doesn’t do well enough on the court to justify the minutes and investment the team has made in him. But make no mistake, the Pistons as presently constructed still need him. McGrady turned it over five times because Phoenix was trapping him near halfcourt on virtually ever possession. McGrady is big enough to sometimes see over those traps and make the correct passes, but if there is no passing angle (and his teammates were consistently in the wrong spots all night to provide sufficient help), he just doesn’t have the explosion or ball-handling ability to break those traps on his own. Stuckey is quick enough, strong enough and handles the ball well enough to beat those traps most of the time.

And with that lone little post play for Villanueva to open the game, the Pistons virtually abandoned any attempts to bully a smaller Phoenix starting lineup. McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon settled for jumpers because, let’s face it, those guys are strictly jump-shooters. Villanueva didn’t consistently drag himself down on the block to try and establish position against Pietrus or Grant Hill. And Ben Wallace, bless his heart, is not going to provide any kind of offensive presence in the post.

Stuckey, on the other hand, gets a majority of his points inside. The threat of him penetrating would’ve at least made it harder for Phoenix to trap the ball with multiple defenders so far away from the basket.

So once again, with the opportunity to build some momentum against a reeling team after a good win, the Pistons not only didn’t do it, they had a miserable performance. It’s natural to get excited about beating teams like Boston, even if the Celtics weren’t at full strength. But the Pistons are not turning any corners. 2011 brings little promise — the trade deadline is around the corner and one of my favorite activities is talking about the NBA Draft, but other than those things, expect the Pistons to continue their trend of often uninspired play with the occasional fun performance sprinkled in. No one wants to watch a losing team, but as long as everyone is realistic about what they are capable of, the season will become much more bearable.

No credit for the bench here

It has been somewhat annoying how the performance of the Pistons’ bench this season has been overly praised.

Well, against Phoenix, no one is going to give that unit much credit. Two guys came off the bench and weren’t completely hopeless: Austin Daye made shots and had eight rebounds and Chris Wilcox played with energy, made a couple of great passes and had a nice hustle play that resulted in a dunk.

But even those performances came with negatives. Daye bit hard on pump fakes by virtually every player he defended. He had to come out in the first half after picking up three fouls in only a few minutes because he couldn’t stay on his feet defensively. And Wilcox didn’t even get a chance to build on his first half minutes after injuring his groin and missing the second half.

As for the rest? Hamilton shot the ball as poorly as I’ve ever seen him. He’s probably finished with worse lines than 2-for-9, but it was as much about how he was missing as how many he missed. He had three shots that barely grazed iron and he constantly forced up contested shots.

Will Bynum was abused by Goran Dragic. Dragic beat him off the dribble all night, and it was his performance alone in the second quarter that ignited the Suns and helped them stretch an 10-point lead to 18 in that quarter.

Greg Monroe shot 2-for-6 from the free throw line and blew an open layup on his only field goal attempt. DaJuan Summers also blew an uncontested layup and he picked up a charge against Grant Hill where Hill was planted in front of him a good three seconds with Summers still deciding to barrel right into him.

Guys like Summers, Monroe and Bynum who have seen their rotation spots and minutes fluctuate wildly need to perform well in games like this, when they could potentially earn more playing time. It was disappointing that none of them seemed up to the task, not that the starters were much better either.

Happy New Year!

Hopefully everyone in the PistonPowered audience has a great 2011, even if seeing a playoff-caliber basketball team probably won’t be in the cards.

This site continues to grow, and more and more people show up in the comments every day to contribute. One of my favorite parts of my day is interacting with people on this site, even if it’s with people who I disagree with and start arguments with. This is a great site and community to be a part of and I look forward to all of your crazy trade suggestions that are sure to get even crazier in the next few weeks!

17 Comments

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  • Jan 1, 20112:29 am
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    I think a good deal of the problem was the team once again let themselves get discombobulated by the refs. The sequence I’m thinking about was the end of the first quarter where Gordon got rolled on a three, then the ball went to Hamilton on the other side, who also got fouled (although not as obviously) on a three and then Gordon went to the hoop, took an elbow to the face (there was no other contact) and got called for a foul. That turned what should have been a five point lead into an eight point lead. McGrady was also obviously fouled a more than one play with no call. That’s not so much the issue as the team let it get under their skin and affect their performance. At this point, it’s obvious that this team is not going to get calls. They’ll have to start to get used to that.

  • Jan 1, 20113:22 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @gordbrown:
    Yeah, I could tell they were frustrated. But the fact is, they are a jump-shooting team, and jump-shooters rarely get the benefit of foul calls going in their favor.

  • Jan 1, 20115:57 am
    by grizz

    Reply

    Very good article thank you but … I wish we all stop blaming Stuckey for only being so so at making the transition to PG .. IMO .. we should have kept him at SG and gone for true PGs … instead of BG or CV … This is not some strange idea … because very few SGs become PGs … We need to start drafting and signing a few true PGs or this team is never going to develop properly …

  • Jan 1, 20119:00 am
    by lk#1

    Reply

    I’ve seen only the first 2 quarters because this team, on most nights, is unwatchable. Those 2 quarters show why it’s annoying to see so many people putting the blame on Stuckey. I believe he’s the most consistent player on this team and without him on the floor it’s extremely easy to slown down the Pistons.
    A good coaching stuff needed one 30 minute game from McGrady to make him completely useless. He needed more than 10 seconds to find a pass. You can say no one moved without the ball but i don’t buy it. He was too slow, had problems handling the ball and did nothing to make it harder for the Suns to double him.
    Kuester is a terrible coach. This team has too much talent to play like this. No set rotation is killing confidence of all our players. The only thing Wilcox does well is jumping. Why play him ahead of anyone? He will look good in blowouts because of his athleticism. Monroe should be getting minutes. It looks like Kuester does everything to make him a worse player. Let him gain confidence and he will the best big on this team.
     

  • Jan 1, 20119:12 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    well hayes, if your previous post had said Phoenix will shoot three pointers against porous Piston defense you would have been on the money
    glad to see that you are finally acknowledging what Stuckey does on the floor – both his penetration and his on ball defense are key for the Pistons as currently constructed.
    i pointed out in previous posts that T-Mac was going to have trouble against teams that play with pace. He is also going to see a lot of the double-team Phoenix  used because it was so sucessful. Every scout is going to put that in their book. Aside from T-Mac’s lack of speed, the major problem is that other teams dod not have to guard Ben Wallace so when you use Ben to set the high screen it just gives the other center a free pass to step out and double team hard. If the Pistons would have used CV to set the screen it would have at least made Phoenix rotate with more urgency.

    But that is the kind of simple coaching adjustment that we cannot expect Q to make. cough cough

    And Will Bynum was on the floor when Phoenix and Dragic made their run. Nash was actually having a bad game but Bynum’s pitiful defense let Dragic look like an all-star. And i only dog him because you and laser keep insisting he should play over Stuckey which is evidence of your complate lack of basketball knowledge. 

    happy New Year to you and yours.

  • Jan 1, 20119:28 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    and i thought Daye played well despite biting on a couple of pump fakes. he rebounded the ball, made the correct passes, did not turn the ball over (except for that offesive foul he picked up when Grant Hill slide and had his foot on the circle line after Daye made that sweet crossover move to the baseline. That should have been a Grant Hill foul)

    the other thing i notice is that Daye is not used as a primary offensive option when he comes in. Q does not run any plays for him and the other players do not especially look for him. I realize this is a minority opinion but i think Daye is the best offensive option the Pistons have on the bench now that CV is in the starting lineup and i personally would rather have Daye jacking shots than either Ben Gordon or Rip Hamilton. All this kid needs is minutes and some plays run for him this year to break out into a 20 point scorer next year. He can hit the three, take the one dribble pull-up, and finish at the basket with his length. The sooner he gets more minutes and has his role defined, the better. Did i say define roles? I am sorry. We all know that has not happened under Q in two seasons. 

  • Jan 1, 201110:04 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Grizz:
    “We need to start drafting and signing a few true PGs or this team is never going to develop properly”
    True PGs are the most rare position in the NBA. There are maybe only two or three guys who are point guards in the traditional sense. The Pistons simply need a playmaker who commands the attention of the defense on every possession. It really doesn’t matter what position that person plays, although having a playmaking PG would certainly be nice.

  • Jan 1, 201110:07 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @lk:
    “I believe he’s the most consistent player on this team”
    I can’t agree with this. He’s been more consistent this year than in year’s past, but Prince has easily been their most consistent player this season, and the only others who have been kind of consistent are Stuckey and Villanueva, but both of those guys are up and down.
    Anyway, at this point, consistency is not the issue. The only consistent thing about the Pistons is that they are not that good.

  • Jan 1, 201110:27 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:
    A few responses.
    “glad to see that you are finally acknowledging what Stuckey does on the floor – both his penetration and his on ball defense are key for the Pistons as currently constructed.”
    I’ve long acknowledged that Stuckey did those two things on the floor. The Pistons need him if the goal is to be semi-competitive. But if the goal is to be a good team, that will not happen if they build the team around Stuckey. I mean, what’s the end-game? Yeah, he can maybe help them stay in the eighth seed race against the other dregs of the East. But that’s about his ceiling as a starting player who gets a lot of minutes.
    “i pointed out in previous posts that T-Mac was going to have trouble against teams that play with pace.”
    Pace wasn’t a factor. The Pistons spaced the floor terribly. McGrady was actually able to see those traps coming quite often. But when he passed out of them, he was often forced to throw the ball cross-court or fit it into a bad angle, which led to turnovers.
    “And i only dog him because you and laser keep insisting he should play over Stuckey which is evidence of your complate lack of basketball knowledge.”
    I’m sure Laser will speak for himself, but I don’t remember myself or him making any arguments in the last eight or 10 weeks that Bynum should play over Stuckey. Did I want Bynum to win that job in camp? Yes I did. But he didn’t, and I’ve written as much early in the season. And anyway, the case was never “Bynum should play over Stuckey.” My position was always more along the lines of Bynum seemed to work harder (and in season’s past, that has been abundantly clear), so with the team going nowhere, I would rather watch the flawed player who works hard than the flawed player who everyone in the organization mistakenly branded a future franchise player.
    AS far as “complete lack of basketball knowledge,” give me an effing break man. You were on here just the other day talking about how “Detroit needs to trade Prince and Maxiell to Memphis for Randolph.” Only a dipshit would think that was a viable trade the Pistons could make. I believe the other suggestion was Hamilton for Blatche or some garbage like that, which, you know, makes absolutely no sense for the other team in the trade. You don’t have to agree with my opinions, and I certainly don’t profess to be the smartest basketball mind out there, but comments like “complete lack of basketball knowledge” are just plain classless.
    “and i thought Daye played well despite biting on a couple of pump fakes.”
    No one played “well.” He played OK. Shot 50 percent. Rebounded. Otherwise, he played atrocious defense just like everyone else on the roster. Just because he was a couple notches above his miserable teammates doesn’t mean he played “well.”
    “the other thing i notice is that Daye is not used as a primary offensive option when he comes in.”
    And why shouldn’t he be? After all, he’s a career 13 points per 36 minutes scorer! Sign that man to a max deal!
    “All this kid needs is minutes and some plays run for him this year to break out into a 20 point scorer next year.”
    I have a full post coming on this concept later today, but damn. Why have the high expectations? Daye was a mid-first round pick. Very few guys selected in that range turn into contributing NBA players, let alone 20 ppg scorers.
    I certainly hope Daye does, and he absolutely has a nice skillset offensively. But the same damn thing happened with Stuckey. He was a mid-first round pick who has become an OK NBA player, but somewhere along the way, everyone became convinced he was a hybrid of Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose or something.
    Do you realize that if Daye even averages 10 points per game in a season, he’ll be beating the odds for what typical mid-to-late first round picks do in their careers? The list of guys over the last 10 years who were picked post-lottery in the first round and don’t amount to much despite tantalizing potential is a long one.
    Daye hasn’t even scored 20 points in a game yet in almost a season and a half. He’s only been in double figures 17 times out of 93 games.
    I hope he’s more, I really do. But if he even develops into a solid rotation player, the Pistons should be very, very happy. To put these ridiculous “he could be a 20 ppg scorer” expectations on him right now is ridiculous, just like all of the talk about Stuckey his first couple years was ridiculous.
    Potential is great. Tangible results are better.

  • Jan 1, 201112:35 pm
    by jack

    Reply

    Interesting McGrady getssdoubled and tripled  which actually opens the floor rfor otherws but he gets blamed. No sane player in this league would double stucky 1 because he is to stupid to even try to make a play for others and two thewy know he has no mid-range game,.

    Lets not forget how god aweful stucky was looking before his stomach even gave out. McGrady should continue to start but probaly in 27 to 30 minutes and let stucky get 20 minutes as his backup.

  • Jan 1, 20111:02 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @Hayes

    don’t be so touchy. i enjoy reading your columns and if i thought you were really a dipshit i wouldn’t bother. i am just ragging you for that “coach” comment.

    There are two major differences between Daye and Stuckey – Daye is a smart player who sees the floor well and Daye has a great shot. Now Daye lacks lateral quickness which is always going to limit him as a defender but he understands defensive angles, positions himself well, and on occasion his length allows him to recover & block from behind after someone has beaten him off the dribble or curling around a screen. Daye also has very good hands and will get some steals.

    I was never a Stuckey as point guard fan. I think it was clear from the beginning that he was a scorer who’s greatest attribute was his strength and speed and willingness to take the ball to the hole and absorb punishment. I personally believe that on-court awareness of the geometry of the floor and the positioning of teammates is something innate and something that good coaching can help develop but not produce. Stuckey did not get good coaching in college and his development in the pros has been marginal compared to what people hoped for: by now it should be evident to all that the Stuckey as point guard experiment should end.

    Does that mean Will Bynum should play? I do not like midget guards and to me Bynum’s game is so ugly, his decision making so atrocious, and his on-ball defense so pitiful that he should not even be in the rotation. The next time i see him try to split a double team and lose the rock i’m going to shoot my TV. Which of course leaves T-Mac or Prince or Daye to run the offense through.

    T-Mac is a very deliberate player these days. He can see over the double team but he cannot get around it. He also does not like to be harassed up the floor. As you pointed out, one problem was spacing and as i pointed out, the other problem was that Ben was used to set the screen and therefore for the pressure release pass to the top of the key and no one cares if Ben Wallace gets the ball there. You don’t have to guard him there – just make sure he does not have a driving lane all the way to the basket – so all the Pistons get out of it is another pass from Ben to the wing – to a player who is already being guarded. The other team hardly has to rotate and they can trap with no fear of the consequences.

    My argument for Stuckey is that other teams fear his ability to drive to the hole, that he is the Pistons best on-ball defender, that by putting him on the floor with three shooters with 3-point range he could be a very effective player that you could build one facet of your offense around.

    as far as my trade scenerios – i simply think Memphis is going to get rid of Randolph for financial reasons and offering them Prince & Wilcox gives them almost 15 million coming off the books that they can use to sign Gasol or even Mayo if they don’t trade him too. I have no idea if they would consider it. Both Prince & Wilcox could step in and play the 4 for the rest of the season. Memphis is playing poorly and might welcome Prince’s leadership and mentoring of Gay for the rest of the year.

    The other trade is also improbable but Washington needs a two guard and a back up point guard and after the recent altercation the word was that Washington was going to trade one of their young bigs. Blatche & Hinrich for Hamilton & Bynum works under the cap. Flip was a big Rip fan. I mean, really, who is going to take that contract off our hands?

  • Jan 1, 20111:04 pm
    by jack

    Reply

    Austin day is so overrated here it’s not funny. The guy is at best a impact player off the bench in this league. Some people make him out to be a allstar or something. You rather have him taking more shots then Gordon? are you kidding me?

  • Jan 1, 20111:26 pm
    by tmac is a point forward

    Reply

    This is why the Pistons need to use either Bynum, stucky or even Gordon to bring the ball up the floor and then dump it onto tmac and let him go to work in the half court set. Who makes a 6’9 220 pound small forward  coming off a micro fracture surgery bring the ball up all game against a lightning quick team?

  • Jan 1, 20116:17 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    bah. i don’t want to see stuckey get a shred of credit for a win they didn’t get. this team is 3-1 without the guy and 8-21 otherwise, and he’s had the same role with a pretty darn consistent roster. but the team never jells because he’s incapable of running an nba offense. so you think he would have been an asset last night, but he’s got a good enough track record to prove he won’t consistently win games with him running the point.

  • Jan 2, 20119:03 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @laser

    they could have used Stuckey last night

  • Jan 2, 201112:08 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    @pcb: save it. i don’t care. so he helps us once every month. i’d rather have whatever we could get for him.
     
    also, i disagree with the notion that there truly are minutes available to be earned this season. the organization is going to play who they’re going to play. maybe our fourth big man is up in the air, but that’s it.

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