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Poor final minute dooms Pistons against Portland

There was little to nitpick about the Pistons performance against Portland save for the last minute or so of the game.

John Kuester over-coached. The Pistons played bad defense on two straight possessions. Austin Daye forced a three when it wasn’t necessary. Charlie Villanueva made an atrocious inbounds pass on a very well-designed play by Kuester. And Portland sealed things at the line.

The problems started with :54 seconds left and the Pistons down one when Kuester made a defensive substitution, inserting Rodney Stuckey for Will Bynum. Ordinarily, this is a sound decision. Stuckey is a far superior defender. The problem? Bynum played as well defensively guarding Andre Miller as I’ve ever seen him play. He had four steals, using quick hands to knock the ball away from Miller. His frenetic style forced the methodical Miller to play faster than he likes to, and Miller’s passes in the fourth quarter weren’t as crisp as is typical for him.

I’m apparently not the only one who thought it was illogical to take Bynum out. Check out this Tweet from Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

Stuckey comes in for Will Bynum…asst coach Walker: “You can’t take Will out the game!”

The defensive substitution didn’t work. Stuckey played Miller tight, but also allowed him to sit and run some clock. Miller and LaMarcus Aldridge ran a pick and pop play, Stuckey didn’t switch on the screen. Daye didn’t rotate quick enough and Aldridge, who shot 12-for-17 in the game, easily nailed an 18-footer from the elbow. How the Pistons were not ready for Portland to go to Aldridge, who had 36 on the night, I don’t know. It wasn’t just that the rotations were late. It looked as if the Pistons were totally caught off guard by a play that Portland runs all the time.

On the Pistons next possession, down three with about :36 seconds left, the team seemed determined to look for a three and nothing else. Ben Gordon used about three pump fakes and looked desperate to try and get one off, but couldn’t and passed to Daye. Daye did the same thing as Gordon, trying to shake his defender, who stayed put, yet Daye still launched a fading 3-pointer that didn’t even catch iron. Missing a three in that instance essentially ended the game. The Pistons had plenty of time to get a two then foul and extend the game. In Kuester’s defense, he said in the postgame presser that the play was to go for two, so that was improvisation on the part of Daye and Gordon.

Portland went up five on free throws and after a timeout, Kuester drew up a really nice play. Portland seemed to be expecting a three, and Detroit’s play had Monroe slip a screen and he headed to the basket with no Blazer within six feet of him. Then Villanueva sailed a pass way over his head that went out of bounds.

The poor final minute undid a lot of good things that the Pistons did throughout the game. They bothered the notoriously steady Miller the entire game. They did a nice job on Rudy Fernandez, who had been playing really well for Portland lately, and they also held Nic Batum to a poor shooting night. Portland was essentially alternating between Aldridge and Wes Matthews, who had 26 points, for offense, and both of those guys had an easy go of it against Detroit’s defenders. But letting those two have big nights and playing well against the rest of the Blazers lineup should’ve been enough to win this game.


  • Feb 13, 201110:32 pm
    by bg8


    i thought that this was a perfect example why people don’t like bynum and bash him. bynum needs to know his role on the team. he’s not the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd option on offense on this team. you get the ball to bg, cv, daye. and especially when gordon was like what 5-6 in the 4th (unless he took a shot in the 3rd), but bynum thinks he a superstar and tried to take over offensively. its like when someone else touched the ball in the 4th, the team scored, but majority of the time, its bynum dribbling and either taking a jump shot or a lay up which he would miss.

    • Feb 13, 201111:13 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I’ll respond with a simple question:

      How did Gordon do defensively against Wes Matthews?

      I’ll also point out once again, Bynum played really well defensively against Miller. He also shot over 50 percent.

      Gordon had a nice game shooting the ball, but he absolutely can’t create his own shot consistently. I don’t understand blaming Bynum when he plays well. He’s not a pass-first point guard, although he is certainly a better passer than Stuckey or Gordon, and he’s a game changer with his speed and ability to get to the basket and finish. Without Bynum, the Pistons are not in this game, particularly with the way he defended tonight.

      • Feb 13, 201111:42 pm
        by bg8


        Wow! you can’t possibly be implying that matthews got most of his point on gordon. gordon played the frist quarter, yeah the dude got two buckets on gordon and bg block one of his shot. matthews got a couple foul shot due to bg in the 4th, but thats it. the rest came on foul at the end of the games when they had to foul. matthews did the most damage in the 2nd and 3rd, when gordon wasn’t on the court.

        yeah, bynum did shoot over 50%, but thats because he jsut padded his stats with 2 layup at the end of the game when portland just let him go the bastket. atleast put up a 3 pointer and see if a miracle happen or not. you take out those 2 shots, he’s under 50%

        ill admit, bynum play good defensively, but he just have to learn his role on offense, thats where my gripe is with bynum. he have to realize he is no offensive juggernaut and there are always a bunch of other player on the court that is way better offensive threat than he is. and thats why the loss is even more upsetting, bynum played good def, bg had it going offensively, they had a good chance to win but bynum still thought he should be the focal point on offensive.

        bynum needs to watch rajon rondo play, he could be a poor man rondo

        • Feb 14, 201112:03 am
          by Laser


          yeah, i was actually going to point out the layups at the end of the game, even though you’re unnecessarily hard on bynum to the point of making it easy to just ignore anything you have to say. so before that he was 4 of 9. but there’s a reason he was on the floor down the stretch, when the team fought back and made it interesting. he was playing good basketball. that guy has to earn EVERY SINGLE MINUTE he plays. nothing is handed to him. he’s not a classic point guard, but when he’s your best option (as he was tonight) how can you complain? let’s get this team a damn traditional point guard so bynum can be marginalized to an extent that everyone’s comfortable with. it’s not bynum’s fault that he’s a shoot-first, backup quality, change-of-pace style point guard who happens to be the team’s best option pretty frequently. so they’re asking him to do more than he’s capable of. but he’s been GREAT lately. so he’s a ridiculous guy to complain about. complain about joe dumars sticking with stuckey too long, not drafting ty lawson, not trying to sign felton, not trying to trade for someone. but leave bynum out of it. he is who he is, and this team is not built around him. hell, the first version of this newest shortened roster involved bynum out of the rotation for one game (a loss) before he was inserted as t-mac’s backup. he’s an afterthought. yet somehow he’s often our best option. that’s not his fault. it’s joe d’s.

    • Feb 13, 201111:29 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I mean seriously, I don’t get it. Stuckey and Daye played poorly. Monroe didn’t play bad, but he was much more quiet than normal and he absolutely got destroyed (as did Wilcox and Villanueva when they took their turns) by Aldridge. And you’re picking a guy who overall played decently and was on the floor when the Pistons erased a 10-point lead as the culprit for this?

      • Feb 13, 201111:34 pm
        by Laser


        are stuckey and daye named “will bynum?” no? there. what more do you need to know? that makes them better than him and, therefore, beyond criticism. kevin garnett put it best when he said that bynum is a cancer to the league and to his team.

      • Feb 13, 201111:55 pm
        by bg8


        simple, stuckey wasn’t in the 4th when the game was on the line, so he doesn’t deserve to get any credit or blame for the game result.  yeah he played the first 3 quarter but when its a tight game in the ending of the 4th, the first 3 quarter doesn’t matter anymore.

        for daye, well that was a really stupid shot at the end of the game, should’ve been like bg and pass it up. but really, he just didn’t really stood out much whether it was for a bad thing or a good thing, and really only had that one bad shot, so i don’t wanna talk about him

        and its easy to pick on bynum, hes the point guard and im a bynum hater. i wouldn’t be complaining much if he could just set up his teammate and not look for his shots so much. he has the ability to create for his teammate but he just wanna be the superstar, the hero

  • Feb 13, 201110:55 pm
    by Laser


    it’s a rare game where i feel the pistons “should” win at all, even rarer when it’s one they eventually lost, and rarer still when a playoff team is involved. there’s no “but” coming, as in: “but they should have won this one.” they shouldn’t have. portland is the better team, and they were better tonight, however slightly. it’s weird that there seems to be some kind of sentiment among pistons fans that when they actually play competitively against a good team and lose, they deserved better than they got. it’s a silly standard, bred from a combination of homerism and the miserably low standards set by the team.
    and of course the play where the team officially surrendered the game on that 3-point miss wasn’t kuester’s fault if he’s the one you’re asking. when kelser and blaha are admitting the team didn’t need to settle for a three when there were driving lanes available and a contested three was objectively the less desirable option, you think kuester’s going to admit the play called for a three? right. because his post-game interviews are always full of honest, useful information. no beating around the bush or talking in circles with this guy. kuester’s a straight shooter. he’s gregg f*cking poppovich as far as i’m concerned.
    everyone knows coach q is to be given credit for every play that works to the team’s advantage, but never blamed for ones for ones that don’t work out. like that play where monroe slipped the screen. greg monroe is incapable both mentally and physically of improvising and seizing an opportunity to improve on the called play. that was kuester’s doing, because the play (as designed) was sound. similarly, ben gordon and austin daye are notorious improvisors as long as their rogue diversions from the plan are worse than kuester’s play. *achem* all kidding aside, we can rarely be 100% sure what was carefully planned and what wasn’t in a given possession, but could we work any harder to give kuester all the credit in the world? if gordon and daye are both DEAD SET on a three pointer, can’t you at least take into account that kuester either (A) actually called for it, or (B) didn’t make it clear enough to the players that they didn’t need to settle for a bad three.
    “coach q, on that last ditch three, you had enough time to extend the game with a two.”
    “oh, i called for a two there. any two at all. that was my coaching plan. no threes, just a two. yeah, that’s the ticket.”
    “what was the specific play called? and i suppose you just had your three point shooters out there just to stretch the floor?”
    “no specific play, per se. any two will do.”
    “good coaching, coach. hope you’re around for years to come.”

    • Feb 13, 201111:25 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Damnit. Gotta do it again.

      “it’s weird that there seems to be some kind of sentiment among pistons fans that when they actually play competitively against a good team and lose, they deserved better than they got.”

      It’s not so much saying they “should’ve” won or “deserved” to win in the sense I thought they were better than Portland. It was more pointing out that, usually if you hold Batum and Fernandez to really poor nights and get 9 turnovers out of Andre Miller, and then play fairly well offensively, that would get Portland a loss most nights against any team. It’s not being a “homer” it’s just pointing out that Portland normally wouldn’t win a game like that, especially with such an uncharacteristic performance from Miller.

      “and of course the play where the team officially surrendered the game on that 3-point miss wasn’t kuester’s fault if he’s the one you’re asking.”

      I didn’t say I believed him. But in the interest of fairness, the coach said he didn’t tell them to do that. It didn’t make basketball sense to do that. And if the coach says it was on the players, who made a poor decision, that’s worth pointing out. Maybe Kuester didn’t call a better play, but I’m guessing he didn’t tell Gordon/Daye to pump fake 30 times then one of them launch a contested three.

      “like that play where monroe slipped the screen. greg monroe is incapable both mentally and physically of improvising and seizing an opportunity to improve on the called play.”

      Monroe certainly is capable. But I think it’s fair to credit Kuester with that. He has drawn up inbounds plays that work well fairly regularly. It seems to be his one strength among many weaknesses. It could’ve been improvisation, certainly. But whatever it was, it was a good play, and Monroe certainly benefited from the movement of other players, who were most likely at least trying to go places Kuester told them to go.

      “but could we work any harder to give kuester all the credit in the world?”

      I think if you read the post, there was plenty of criticism of Kuester. But who needs context when there’s a diatribe to type!

      “if gordon and daye are both DEAD SET on a three pointer, can’t you at least take into account that kuester either (A) actually called for it, or (B) didn’t make it clear enough to the players that they didn’t need to settle for a bad three.”

      He’s certainly not a communicator, so it’s possible for sure. But if he says specifically that he didn’t call it, it’s fair to say that. And the players who were interviewed (not Daye or Gordon), talked about on-court miscommunication. In fact, they had about five turnovers that were the result of horrid passing, not enough movement or incorrectly anticipating where someone would be on the night. So it’s an equally good bet that they just didn’t run the play correctly or Portland took away the primary options, and minus those, Gordon and Daye thought that a three would be the best shot.

      And honestly, saying that Kuester didn’t tell them to go for a three isn’t saying he’s absolved of blame. If he told them not to do it and they still did it, that’s still a bad look for the coach.

      • Feb 13, 201111:51 pm
        by Laser


        you didn’t need to get that into it, hayes. not if you considered it a chore, or a “here we go again” situation. i was just thinking out loud and pointing out an interesting phenomenon. not singling you out here. but i could really see how pistons fans would look at all the things they did right and/or portland did wrong and think the pistons deserved this one. this was the kind of game where the analysts and team and some fans would say they should have won when, in fact, they didn’t. it doesn’t take much to beat the pistons, and opponents have spent much of this season by doing “just enough.” i can’t remember the last time i saw a team play so many close games that really didn’t have to be so close. and it’s not an accident.
        ok kuester: you certainly implied you believed kuester.  “In Kuester’s defense, he said in the postgame presser that the play was to go for two, so that was improvisation on the part of Daye and Gordon.” starting that sentence with “in kuester’s defense” leads me to believe you meant to defend him. i’d have read it differently if you said “in kuester’s own defense.” thus, it sounds very much like the conclusion that daye and gordon improvised is your own. you’re a competent writer. you see what i’m saying here.

        my thing with kuester is that i’d literally feed him to an actual pack of wolves without conscience and replace him with literally anyone, including michael curry. i think he’s proven himself to be incompetent many times over. i’d never give him the benefit of any doubt. i’m sure there are times when he draws up big plays and they get executed to perfection. i think i remember it happening maybe twice in his two seasons coaching. i mean, he was sold as an X’s and O’s kind of guy, and god knows he’s displayed nothing else that would lead anyone to believe he deserves the job. i just hesitate to give him automatic credit for anything that happens on the court. if a credible source says he knows kuester drew up a given play, i’ll take his word for it. but i’d never just guess he did.

        and yes, you have criticized kuester in this recap and others, so that was an unfortunate sentence to write. that was some of my classic hyperbole, so i’m sorry if it sounded like you were going overboard in supporting that bum. but i swear to god i’d feed him to a bear. i want nothing to do with him. anything positive anyone has to say about him sets me off. glad to see we at least agree that he needs to take some blame when things go south, like they seem to do almost nightly, even if he did draw up a play that made some sense.

        • Feb 13, 201111:58 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          It’s not that it’s a chore. I just thought you were misinterpreting some things I wrote.
          As for the “in his defense” qualifier, I just meant that as he said it wasn’t his fault. I have no way of knowing if it was or wasn’t. I should hope that he didn’t call for a three. He’s already proven to be a terrible coach, but he’s been around the NBA for about 400 years, so I would assume he’d have to know that you absolutely don’t go for a contested three in that situation. But maybe I shouldn’t assume anything.

          • Feb 14, 20111:29 am
            by Laser

            i don’t think i misinterpreted anything too badly. surely you see what i meant about how you phrased the bit about kuester’s play call. and my bit about kuester getting a free pass was just a reaction to the fact that i think he doesn’t deserve credit for anything. so it made me cringe that he seemed to get a pass for one play that didn’t work out where seemed like the players were set on a specific plan just because he said it wasn’t his fault, while getting credit for another one that seemed very much like the kind of thing that routinely develops when a player improvises. i mean, it’s a heck of a set play that gets a credible offensive threat completely free right under the basket with nobody anywhere near him or even aware he exists at all. we should run that one more often! every play would be a bunny for g-money!

  • Feb 14, 20111:45 am
    by Fennis


    Laser –
    It’s pure comedy that the person most likely to post inane, repetitive, ill-considered comments is the same person most likely to dismiss the comments of others.
    I have to break with BG and admit that Bynum played great tonight. I was especially impressed with his defense, which made Kuester’s late-game switch to Stuckey the right move in the wrong game. Stuckey was cold, tight, and clearly pissed off about having to warm up for a single defensive possession when Bynum was humming.
    I have no fundamental problem with Bynum being a shoot-first, change of pace pg. But I really hate the number of iso plays we run in a given game, be it T-Mac, Prince, Stuckey, or Bynum. If these guys were All-Stars it’d be one thing. But to run 40%-50% isolation plays a game with average to above-average talent seems simple-minded at best. Why not utilize the benefits of team basketball to compensate for the talent disparity? I’m beginning to think that Will Bynum’s one-on-one play is less “the problem” and more symptomatic of a larger problem, which is the lack of motion and ball movement in the half-court set. Ever see Boston and San Antonio whip the ball around the perimeter to loosen the defense? It’s beautiful basketball. We rarely do that, and our one-on-one talent doesn’t compare to either of those teams. I don’t mean to take away from Bynum’s night or his last two games, but I do think there needs to be a larger discussion of the amount of one-on-one basketball we’re seeing in the half-court set. The lack of motion becomes painfully evident in crunch time when defenses dig in and ball movement becomes critical to getting a good shot.
    Doc Rivers has a saying — “No hero basketball,” i.e., move the ball and use your teammates rather than devolving into isos. If he can convince Pierce, Garnett, and Allen, Kuester should be able to do the same in the D. I don’t think it’s a matter of selfishness. It’s more a function of a style of play that the primary ball handlers cultivate.

  • Feb 14, 20118:55 am
    by detroitpcb


    i thought Will Bynum played the best defense i have ever seen him play and was shocked when he was removed from the game for defensive purposes.

    His judgement on offense was/is still very suspect (those bad decisions that result in blocked shots) but he has been more proactive in looking for teammates earlier in the clock and actually played like a point guard for a stretch in the first half.

    Daye did not play well in yesterday’s game but it is hard to fault him for that last three pointer. Ben Gordon basically hung him out to dry. If Gordon passes the ball earlier, Daye has a chance to make a move or even go to the basket but he received the ball with so little time on the clock and his man right on him since Gordon foolishly picked up his dribble.

    • Feb 14, 20119:45 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      Yeah, it was just an overall bad possession. But there was still 10 seconds on the shot clock when Daye got the ball. It just looked like he and Gordon both thought they had to get a three on that possession. Not sure why they thought that.

  • Feb 14, 201110:45 am
    by brgulker


    I think Patrick’s analysis of the final minutes is really good. I understand why Kuester played the group he did (keep the hot hands out there), but I would have at least swapped out Daye for McGrady.
    I think what’s not been discussed on the blogosphere yet, though, is the several “cherry pick” layups that we allowed throughout the game. Had we simply applied basketball 101: get back on defense, we win last night’s game. Literally, we spotted them 6-8 points by failing to run back after taking a shot.

    • Feb 14, 201112:40 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Good point, and really, the Pistons seem to get killed in transition every game.

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