But Pistons coach John Kuester’s changes don’t make the Detroit good. They might sneak Detroit into the playoff, but that doesn’t come close to making Detroit good.
The lineup still features too many flawed players, leaving the potential for ugly losses in the event of everyone’s flaws coming out at once – which happened tonight. That’s how a tie game midway through the third quarter turned into a capital-U Ugly 89-74 loss to the lowly Nets.
They Nets hadn’t won by this many points all season. They hadn’t held an opponent to such a low score in nearly two years and hadn’t even held a team below 82 points this season.
It’s not like the Nets played especially well, either. Detroit just out-failed them. The Pistons followed four of New Jersey’s 16 turnovers with a turnover of their own on their next possession.
Games like this will happen to 15-28 teams, and the Pistons surely have more in their future. You can take the glass-half-full approach and see that if everyone had done just one thing better, the Pistons would have won. Or you can take the glass-half-empty approach and see that everyone did something wrong.
Literally every member of the Pistons’ rotation had a major deficiency exposed tonight. Not all of the problems were the player’s fault, although some were. Others involve how the coach deploys the player or mere circumstance.
But the Pistons must recognize each of these flaws in order to start correcting them and remain in playoff contention.
Tayshaun Prince’s flaw
One of the biggest plusses to the new rotation has been improved ball movement, but that has too often stopped with Tayshaun Prince. For whatever reason, Prince continues to run the isolation-heavy offense that pigeonholed the Pistons early this season.
That was especially evident tonight, when Prince scored 16 points but needed 17 shots to get them. Most of his looks came on isolation plays, which doesn’t seem wise, considering Travis Outlaw defends pretty well.
I don’t think this is Prince’s fault. Everyone clears out so quickly when Prince catches the ball, I’m guessing this come from John Kuester. I don’t really understand why this happens, either. Prince passes well for a forward. The Pistons can take advantage of that skill and not disrupt their offensive flow at the same time. It’s a win-win. So, start doing it already.
Tracy McGrady’s flaw
The biggest reason Detroit has moved the ball better recently has been Tracy McGrady‘s increased role. He makes the smart play more often than any other Piston, and with his legs looking healthier and healthier, he become even more effective.
But he’s still not capable of handling a big load every night. With 10 points, six assists and six rebounds, McGrady played well against the Nets. For a stretch of the third quarter, though, quarter, McGrady shifted to off-guard and Rodney Stuckey handled point-guard duties. The Pistons’ offense didn’t run as smoothly during that stretch.
Chris Wilcox’s flaw
Since entering the rotation 10 games ago, Chris Wilcox is averaging 8.2 points and 6.6 points per game, including five points and eight rebounds tonight – fine numbers. But as well as he’s played, it’s been difficult to keep him on the court. He’s also averaging 3.3 fouls in his last 10 games, including four tonight.
If that seems higher than you’ve seen in Detroit lately, that’s because it is. No Piston has averaged at least 3.3 fouls per game since Don Reid in 2002-03.
When Wilcox left the game after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half, the Nets began to pull away.
Wilcox, who averages 4.2 fouls per 36 minutes for his career, probably won’t foul less, although he could try. A better solution would be John Kuester not being scared to play Wilcox until he fouls out.
Austin Daye’s flaw
When Chris Wilcox picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, Austin Daye replaced him at power forward – not a terrible decision by John Kuester, considering Charlie Villanueva was out for the second half after spraining his ankle late in the second quarter.
As expected, Daye got manhandled at power forward. He’s not a power forward, and that’s not his fault.
But when Daye re-entered the game as a wing in the fourth quarter, his defensive awareness was still awful. He lost track for Anthony Morrow a couple times, and Morrow made a couple jumpers to push New Jersey’s lead to double digits, where it remained the rest of the game.
Charlie Villanueva’s flaw
Because of his sprained ankle, Charlie Villanueva couldn’t replace Chris Wilcox in the third quarter. But that doesn’t mean Villanueva would have been the answer, anyway. He missed all three of his first-half shots, including two 3-point attempts. Villanueva remains a streaky shooter who’s too prone to off nights.
Jason Maxiell’s flaw
This one is a bonus, because Jason Maxiell hasn’t been in the rotation lately. He played only when it became clear Austin Daye couldn’t handle minutes at power forward, and Maxiell did just enough to remind everyone why he doesn’t play regularly.
He didn’t grab any rebounds in nine minutes tonight.
Rodney Stuckey’s flaw
Rodney Stuckey has the tools to be one of the league’s best defensive guards. More often that not lately, he’s even used them.
But tonight, he didn’t stop anyone. Until he makes a nightly commitment to defense, his potential on that end of the court will at least partially go to waste.
Will Bynum’s flaw
Will Bynum provided the offensive spark the Pistons needed in the second quarter, making 4-of-5 shots. But he didn’t make another shot the rest of the game.
Bynum tends to over-dribble and become predictable with the ball in his hands. That’s a big reason he charged twice, had the ball stolen and had a shot blocked in the fourth quarter.
Ben Gordon’s flaw
The Pistons needed an offensive spark in the second quarter because Ben Gordon was having another non-descript game. He finished with seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in 24 minutes.
The Pistons signed him because he appeared to be on the verge of becoming one of the NBA’s top scorers. But Detroit hasn’t seen any of the killer instinct Gordon showed with the Bulls in his final playoff series against the Celtics.
Greg Monroe has come a long way this season, especially on the glass. He had 10 rebounds tonight, and made an overall positive impact.
He’s also made strides on offense, where he’s excelling at putbacks and becoming competent on the block.
But he has a lot of progress left to make on that end of the court. He missed both his jump shots, charged on a rare drive to the basket and missed 3-of-4 free throws.
In case you couldn’t figure out the larger point of this post from the previous narrow-minded 10 sections, I’ll spell it out for you:
Tonight’s loss prompted to me to write about a flaw for every player in the Pistons’ rotation. That’s how Detroit played.
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