Much was made about Pistons coach John Kuester‘s comments after a loss to Miami earlier this week about making some mysterious changes to the rotation after watching the team play really lethargic basketball in that loss to the Heat.
In Friday’s 104-91 loss to Orlando, these were the real noticeable changes: Will Bynum got a DNP-CD, Austin Daye got five first half minutes and Greg Monroe played a little more. But everyone else? Here’s how things were broken down:
- Ben Gordon: season average – 27.0; vs. Orlando – 30
- Ben Wallace: season average – 24; vs. Orlando – 18
- Charlie Villanueva: season average – 26; vs. Orlando – 29
- Jason Maxiell: season average – 20; vs. Orlando – 21
- Richard Hamilton: season average – 26; vs. Orlando – 17
- Rodney Stuckey: season average – 32; vs. Orlando – 35
- Tayshaun Prince: season average – 32; vs. Orlando – 40
- Tracy McGrady: season average – 16; vs. Orlando – 15
So basically, Monroe’s minutes came mostly at the expense of Wallace. Stuckey and Prince picked up some of Hamilton’s minutes because Hamilton struggled shooting the ball and defensively in the second half against Quentin Richardson of all people. And Bynum, who hadn’t played great but certainly wasn’t playing worse than some other players getting time, was out of the rotation, at least for this game.
I guess that constitutes some changes to the rotation, but not exactly sweeping change.
The Pistons wasted Prince’s best game of the season. He was brilliant offensively, efficient, active and he was virtually the only player on the court for the Pistons who showed any fight whatsoever in the second half. The defense was bad all game, the Orlando wasn’t playing any in the first half, so the Pistons had a one-point lead at the half. Then, Richardson got hot in the third quarter, and in the absence of Dwight Howard who missed the game due to illness, Orlando’s bigs Marcin Gortat, Brandon Bass and Malik Allen started stepping in front of Stuckey on his wild drives inside and drawing charges and the wing players did a good job pinching Hamilton and Gordon off of screens, forcing them into a combined 5-for-20 shooting night. Orlando’s willingness to begin contesting shots and Detroit’s inability to do so in the second half was essentially the difference.
Prince continues strong play
In the midst of his public frustrations early in the season, Prince was also playing pretty poorly. Now, he appears to be channeling his frustrations with how the team is performing into his game. He scored 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting against Orlando. He’s averaging nearly 20 points per game and shooting close to 55 percent over his last five, but aside from his strong play against the Magic, Prince’s best attribute was his body language. He was frustrated with officials during the game (who got three calls really blatantly wrong, an obvious offensive goaltending on Gortat, a foul call on Prince on a Carter jumpshot where replays showed Prince made no contact with Carter and a missed call where Carter elbowed Prince in the face as Prince dunked a Hamilton lob), he was frustrated that the Magic pulled away and through it all, he kept playing hard and tried to keep the Pistons in it. Prince in the past has let his emotions take him out of the game, so it was good to see him play through some things that typically get to him.
Greg Monroe’s offense is catching up
Monroe started the season shooting below 40 percent, looking tentative on offense and getting a high percentage of his shots blocked. Against Orlando, he shot better than 50 percent for the fourth straight game (he’s shooting 65 percent overall over that stretch) and had his best game passing the ball, which is what one of his strengths was coming out of college, finishing with four assists and no turnovers. He’s averaging about 7 points and 5 boards per game over the last four and his confidence is growing each game.
He struggled defensively, as did the rest of the frontcourt, against the Magic as Bass, in particular, simply muscled his way to the basket against Monroe on numerous possessions. But Monroe will take some time defensively as he needs to add some strength.
Wallace missing again
With about five minutes to go in the game, the Pistons’ deficit had been fluctuating between six and 10 points the last couple minutes. Greg Kelser mentioned how badly the Pistons needed to string a couple stops together to try and make one last run.
So it would make sense that the best defensive player on the team, Wallace, was nowhere to be found. Wallace continues to sit most fourth quarters. The Pistons are constantly in games that are close in the fourth quarter. It makes absolutely no sense to have Wallace on the bench in those moments. Sure, teams could intentionally foul him to put him on the line. But when he’s not on the court, there’s no chance that the Pistons can consistently get stops defensively.
Disjointed and confusing zone
The Pistons briefly tried to use a zone defense in the third quarter for some reason.
It was confusing because, even with J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson out, the Magic are still among the best 3-point shooting teams in the league. At the time, the Magic had a lineup that included good 3-point shooters Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Quentin Richardson on the floor. What advantage could a zone possibly have?
It also was evident the Pistons weren’t on the same page in that defense. One of the first shots against that zone came when Maxiell, who was parked down the block, had to try and close out on Rashard Lewis, who was alone in the corner because no one on the wing rotated over to him. Lewis, obviously, buried the three since he had about three seconds to set up for the shot.
Friendly schedule, but does it matter?
The Pistons next five games are: home for Cleveland, at Houston, at New Orleans, at Minnesota, home for Toronto. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row. At 6-13, they can’t fall much further under .500 and hang around the playoff race, even in the weak East. And if they can’t come out of those next five with at least a 3-2 mark, it’s pretty silly to talk about a playoff race anyway.
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