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Pick your poison: Detroit Pistons can’t control Timberwolves backcourt or frontcourt as they finish 0-3 road trip

Late in the Detroit Pistons’ 109-99 loss to Minnesota Friday, Fox Sports Detroit broadcaster George Blaha was talking about T-Wolves point guard Luke Ridnour and said, “Ridnour has a double-double tonight with 10 points and … oh wait, 18 points and 10 assists.”

The minor gaffe was indicative of just how poorly the Pistons’ defense on Minnesota’s guards was on the evening. It was so shockingly bad, it even caught the eternally optimistic Blaha off-guard. Ridnour doubled up his season averages, finishing with 20 points and 10 assists (he averages 10 and 5). Throw in Sebastian Telfair’s seven points off the bench and the spark he gave in the first half, helping the T-Wolves quickly erase what was a 13 point deficit, Wes Johnson’s efficient shooting and it all adds up to a really weak effort by the Pistons’ perimeter defense. Even Corey Brewer, who shot poorly at 4-for-14, was getting open looks all night, his shot was just not falling.

Coming into the game, I was worried about one matchup: whoever ended up guarding Michael Beasley between Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell. I felt that Prince wasn’t strong enough and Maxiell wasn’t quick enough. I wasn’t sweating Kevin Love, not because I think that Love is not a really good player, but because I was basically conceding the matchup. The Pistons gave up 35 points and 12 boards to Luis Scola and then 25 points and 6 boards to David West in consecutive games, so Love’s 27 points and 18 rebounds was no big surprise. Hell, he would’ve possibly challenged for another 30-30 night had he not been held to 1 point and 0 rebounds in the first quarter.

But Prince actually did a decent job with Beasley, holding him to 12 points on 6-for-14 shooting and helping get Beasley into foul trouble, limiting his time on the court. Prince forced him into taking jump shots most of the game, he contested them and he prevented the big streaks, where Beasley rattles off 8 or 10 points really quickly, that he has been known to go on this season. The defensive focus, however, affected Prince’s offense. He only shot 3-for-12 at the other end, and unfortunately, Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton were not up to the task defensively.

Stuckey routinely sagged off of Ridnour as he dribbled up court, giving Ridnour open looks at pull-up threes quite often. Here’s a hint: Ridnour, all 6-foot-0, 175 pounds of him, is not interested in taking it inside. And if you’re worried about Luke Ridnour driving past you to the point where you need to give him a cushion, well, you probably should not be defending any NBA point guard.

And Hamilton was poor defensively as well. He just wasn’t moving his feet at that end of the court, often just halfheartedly reaching at slashing players as they drove past him. To his credit, though, at least he played at the offensive end, scoring 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting.

Make no mistake: going 0-3 on this very easy three-game road trip is the worst stretch of the season. In 12 quarters of basketball on this trip, the Pistons lost 11 of them. They were only leading early in the Minnesota game because it took a while for Love to get heated up and, for some reason, the T-Wolves seemed committed to running their offense through Darko Milicic early. Once Love started getting the proper number of touches, the game wasn’t really competitive as Minnesota just methodically pulled away.

The Pistons are now 1-5 in December, and despite the presence of Toronto, the Clippers and the Bobcats on the remaining schedule this month, the Pistons have given no assurances that they can be all that competitive against bad teams, let alone good ones. If some drastic lapses in the team’s defensive intensity aren’t addressed, this might be the month the Pistons fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and that’s no easy task considering all the teams doing their best to fall out of that slot right now.

Darko’s seven easiest blocks of the season

Darko Milicic was great defensively for Minnesota. And yes, typing that sentence and every Darko-related sentence I’ll end up typing this season hurts more than anything. But it’s clear: Milicic has evolved into one of the better frontcourt defenders in the league.

He blocked seven shots against the Pistons, and don’t get me wrong, that’s impressive. But he should also send a big thank you card to Greg Monroe and Stuckey for gift-wrapping at least four for him, plays where he didn’t really have to do anything but hold his ground and put his arm up.

Folks, there’s a good chance that Darko Milicic is going to lead the NBA in blocked shots this season. We all better start getting used to it as soon as possible. Possibly do like T-Mac and have a few glasses of moscato.

But at least we can take solace in the fact that he’s still horrible offensively. His turn-around right-handed hook attempt after a slow spin move from about 9 feet out that missed the basket by about three feet would have been the lamest shot of the season of JaVale McGee weren’t taking the “insanely idiotic shot” department to whole new levels.

Greg Monroe gets a start

The good news from the game? Pistons fans got an extended look at Monroe as a starter against a pretty good frontcourt, and he more than held his own.

His offense wasn’t that good. He’s had his well-documented problems with getting his shot blocked, and Milicic ate a few of his attempts alive. But he’s been a good rebounder all season for Detroit in his limited minutes, and that played out tonight. He finished with 15 rebounds, and eight of those were at the offensive end. His work on the offensive glass helped keep the game closer than it rightfully should’ve been, considering Minnesota shot 52 percent and Detroit shot only 39 percent for the game.

The bad news?

Monroe’s start didn’t come because John Kuester finally came to his senses and started him for Maxiell. It came because Kuester decided he needed to save Ben Wallace for tomorrow, since the Pistons have a back-to-back.

Unless Wallace is secretly injured, and that doesn’t appear to be the case since Wallace dressed for the game and was reportedly available for “emergency” duty, this makes zero sense.

Wallace played 28 minutes in Houston Tuesday, 24 in New Orleans Wednesday and the team had an off-day Thursday. Wallace is roundly praised for the shape he’s in. He’s arguably a better conditioned athlete than anyone on the team, regardless of age. He hasn’t been injured this year. He has played over 30 minutes in a game only twice this year.

The Pistons do have another game tomorrow, but after that, they play just twice in the next five days. This isn’t exactly a brutal point in the schedule and Wallace hasn’t been wearing down noticeably. Wallace not playing in this game may not have changed the outcome, but even 10 or 15 minutes with Wallace on the court could’ve at least kept the game competitive longer.

10 Comments

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  • Dec 11, 201012:47 am
    by Vince

    Reply

    Well I can’t say I was happy at the scoreline, I followed the game through scorecenter and all I could say was WOW. I have to say that I was impressed and initially happy with the first 5 minutes of the game, but when the Timberwolves caught up I knew it was over. Stuckey had an off game, so did Prince, Maxiell, Villanueva, hell everyone did except Monroe, who played great. I’m really not looking forward to the rest of the season.

  • Dec 11, 201012:57 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Vince:

    Monroe played great on the boards, but he also shot very poorly, mostly because of Darko, and the bench was terrible, although Wilcox and McGrady looked decent on the pick and roll.

  • Dec 11, 20104:39 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    wait, but how did the benches match up? don’t leave us in suspense!
     
    no, but seriously… when i heard monroe was starting i almost jumped for joy (i was driving, so it was doubly good that i restrained myself). you can imagine my eyeroll when i heard who he was starting for. it’s getting kind of INSANE, this starting maxiell thing, no?? like, someone needs to answer for it at some point. what’s his record, exactly, as a starter this season? 2 and a TON?
     
    @vince: if by “off” day for stuckey you mean he stinks and is obviously not a franchise player or floor leader and can’t will this team to any victories ever even when he’s supposed to be the only guy with a matchup advantage, then yes. he had an off night. yet another off night in a career made almost entirely of them. in fact, his “on” nights are so rare you might think a pattern is emerging. if you’re talking about how he “filled” the stat sheet, he didn’t shoot the ball well, but he got to the line plenty and knocked down his free throws, so he gave you almost 6 extra points reasonably efficiently, delivering 19 points on 16 shots (he should almost never be taking that many shots to begin with; it’s a wonder we could ever win a game when he does. we’re 0-5 when he does and 1-8 when he takes 15 shots) and an extra assist above his average. he’s put together four games over the course of this young season where he assisted on 6 baskets COMBINED. twice this season he’s assisted once, three times he’s assisted just twice, thrice he’s assisted on three. that’s basically a third of his games where he’s assisted 1/2, 1/3 or 1/6 as much. so, uh, excuses anyone?
     
    also, as for ben wallace, no conspiracy. the organization isn’t exactly being “honest” with us, because i’m sure i’m not the only one who realizes the season was lost before the 1/4 mark. if he REALLY wanted to play, i think he would have. but they were supposed to be resting him on back-to-backs from the start… except it’s been such a bad season that they couldn’t afford to early on in games that somebody obviously thought were winnable for some reason. it’s not some mad conspiracy theory; sure we won’t get the WHOLE story because this just isn’t a very transparent organization, but it’s just one of those things. he’s old. he’s playing here for the hell of it. no sense killing him in a season that’s this badly lost this early.
     
    also, pick and roll?? the pistons played some pick and roll tonight????? (i didn’t watch the game, which i imagine will be a growing trend.) that doesn’t sound like us. you sure you were watching the right game, hayes??

  • Dec 11, 20105:16 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    All hope we had of winning this game went when McGrady got a steal and started a 3 0n 2 fast break only to throw the ball into one of the defenders which in turn caused a fast break the other way. I am pretty sure we were either even or down by 2. After that play everyone started making mistakes and trying to win the game themselves while Rinour put on a how to share the ball basketball clinic…very frustrating game to watch.

  • Dec 11, 20108:59 am
    by Tom

    Reply

    Darko is playing great this year on D and better at O than he ever has. Good signing.

  • [...] Pick your poison: Detroit Pistons can’t control Timberwolves backcourt or frontcourt as they finis…. [...]

  • Dec 11, 201012:41 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    yeah the second darko signed, even though i hadn’t seen too much from him lately, and even though i wasn’t CRAZY about his contract, i admitted he would be a significant upgrade to our roster this season. and that was one of the most damning things i could think of about this team.

  • Dec 11, 20102:31 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    Look Darko still sucks horribly on offense. And he’s not that good of a rebounder, or maybe eats just that Love grabs so many rebounds that it makes everyone else on the team look like bad rebounders, either way, all he does is block shots. Cool. I’d still take him, but I don’t think you want him on the court very long if your trying to win basketball games. He’d be a good reserve big man on a decent team.
     
    I’m just happy Monroe got some burn. And 15 rebounds! That’s what I’m talking about. I hope he’s going to be good at offense one of these days, and I’d fully support giving this guy as much playing time as humanly possible the rest of the season. We have to find out what we have with Monroe, and try to get him ready to be a major reason why this team gets turned around in the future. No more coming along slowly crap, it’s time to go.
     
    Anyways what on earth were the Pistons thinking? Eh, it’s the Timberwolves this should be an easy win tonight, hey Ben Wallace how about you take a rest we can handle this without you. It should be a piece of cake. I don’t get it. And how about nobody talking about CV these days. Dude has been terrible lately. When he was playing well the praise was coming from everywhere, now he sucks and nobody wants to talk about it. Ok. I guess. Maxiell? You suck. Stay in Minnesota and please don’t try to follow the team.
     
    The almighty PF matchup:
     
    CV/Max – 47 minutes, 4-11 fg, 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 7 fouls
     
    Love – 41 minutes, 10-14 fg, 27 points, 18 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 foul

  • Dec 11, 20104:55 pm
    by Vince

    Reply

    @Nuetes and Laser I completely agree, the pistons are in need of a franchise player that can propel the team to more wins and give them more confidence in their game. The PF spot is a revolving door and though CV had a good start, he’s been playing terribly lately, same goes for Max, Stuckey earned my respect earlier in the season but he’s lost it almost as quickly as his game. We can all agree now that Monroe is a better fit for the starting PF job after how he played last night, though I doubt we’ll see much of him against Toronto, the only trade I see possible right now is Max and Prince for Jason Thompson and a first round pick. Either that or Hamilton and a conditional first round pick for Z-Bo.  Hell do both trades, It’ll improve our frontcourt and give more time for players who deserve it. Its too bad Joe has his hands tied until the All-Star break, God knows the Pistons need help.

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