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Detroit Pistons play smart, hustle, battle (and lose) against Miami Heat

The Pistons opened the game with a decided matchup advantage, which is rare enough.

And they displayed tremendous early energy, which might be even rarer.

And they kept up that energy well into the second half, which by definition, is even rarer than that.

And they were playing the Miami Heat, which might convince you I’m lying.

But all that happened. Oh, and the Pistons lost, 100-94. You didn’t ever expected them to win this game, did you?

The Heat are 49-22 for a reason – actually, several reasons, and one of the biggest is they beat up on weak teams. The Pistons, if you haven’t been paying attention, are a weak team. But, unlike many other nights, that didn’t stop them from making a positive impression.

To open the game, the Pistons played smart. Detroit built an eight-point lead midway through the first quarter by feeding whoever Mike Bibby guarded – Richard Hamilton, Tracy McGrady and even Chris Wilcox after a switch.

When the Heat pulled Bibby, the Pistons hustled. Jason Maxiell scrambled all over the court setting screens, and he scored inside a bit, too. Hamilton (27 points and four assists) moved well without the ball. And with all that pressure on the Heat’s defense, passing lanes opened. Detroit capitalized with 28 assists for the game, a majority of them coming in the first half.

When the Heat slowed the game by making shots – opening the fourth quarter on a 15-0 run – which allowed them to tighten their defense on Detroit, the Pistons battled. Thanks in large part to Rodney Stuckey’s aggressiveness, the Heat didn’t pull away until the final 10 seconds.

I don’t know how a Pistons fan could come away unhappy with the team’s performance tonight. For those who want to see Detroit play well, they got that. For those who want better lottery odds, they got that, too.

Why Chris Wilcox didn’t play more

Although his defense on Chris Bosh didn’t exactly impress, Chris Wilcox had a pretty fine game. In 18 minutes, he scored 10 points (5-of-6 shooting), grabbed four rebounds and made two assists, including a backward, no-look scoop to Greg Monroe for a layup after digging up a loose ball.

Most nights when Wilcox performs that well, he’d play more, but other factors kept him on the bench.

His second foul in the first quarter earned him a slightly quicker-than-usual hook, and he didn’t return in the first half. He played the first 9:30 of the second half, a fairly typical stint, but he never returned in the fourth quarter.

His night ended in the third quarter, because the Pistons’ needed an element late in the game he couldn’t provide.

Nine of the Pistons’ final 11 points came from a wing-type player driving to the basket, either via field goal or free throw.

Had Wilcox re-entered, he probably would have done so at the 6:43 mark, when Monroe and Richard Hamilton replaced Jason Maxiell and Ben Gordon. They joined Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince and Greg Monroe on the court.

In that final stretch, the Pistons scored 13 points. Not setting the world on fire, but it certainly beats the zero points Detroit had previously scored in the fourth quarter. Detroit’s offense began clicking, because its four wing-type players spread the floor and created driving lanes for each other. The plan really worked because the Heat (with Mike Bibby and James Jones) didn’t have enough players capable of both defending and helping on drives on the floor to match up with four potential drivers.

Of course, Pistons risked their rebounding and interior defense with this strategy. But during that final stretch, they outrebounded Miami, and Bosh scored just two points.

The Pistons didn’t really miss Wilcox, and they benefited from playing four wing-types.

Detroit lost because the Heat are a better team, not because John Kuester mismanaged his rotation. Quite the contrary, Kuester deserves credit for giving the Pistons a chance down the stretch with an unorthodox lineup.

Charlie Villanueva’s Pistons career might be entering the home stretch

In the first 2:38 of the fourth quarter, Charlie Villanueva committed an illegal-defense violation,* missed a shot and did nothing defensively to slow the Heat’s 11-0 run. So, John Kuester logically pulled the power forward in favor of someone who can make a positive impact on the game.

*At least one, for sure. The Pistons actually committed two in that short span, but the other was credited to Jason Maxiell. Keith Langlois thought Villanueva caused it. I don’t recall.

Villanueva wasn’t pleased. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

CV31 pointing at Q as he was yanked from the game.

I asked Ellis to clarify, and he graciously did:

He didn’t look happy.

To clarify further: CV31 was saying something while pointing. Q was just looking at him.

Just a gut feeling, but I don’t expect Villanueva back with the Pistons next year. By all accounts he’s a good guy and active in the community, but his sense of entitlement must be wearing thin.

Rodney Stuckey dunks harder than I’ve ever seen him dunk before

Rodney Stuckey usually takes the ball hard to the rim, but he doesn’t always (or often) finish hard once he gets there. Not the case tonight. Video via The Hoop Scene:

Another double-double for Greg Monroe

Greg Monroe had 14 points and 12 rebounds. More importantly, he continues to expand his game. Monroe held the ball longer tonight than he typically does, patiently looking for his shot or a pass (he made two assists). He also looked more confident with his spin move in the post, which he’s flashed on occasion in the past.


  • Mar 24, 20114:47 am
    by JoshB


    Fun game, especially seeing Stuckey posterize Bosh :)

  • Mar 24, 20116:39 am
    by xerowattbulb


    Greg Monroe with ANOTHER solid double double- a great thing to see from a rookie this late in the season.

  • Mar 24, 20117:53 am
    by detroitpcb


    No mention of the coaching error that cost them the game in the 4th when Q left the second unit in too long. They were struggling to score because as you would expect with Daye, CV, and Ben Gordon in the game they stopped attacking the basket and settled for jump shots but even more importantly, they got no stops during thier scoring drought. The three afore named players are all very poor defensively and i simply do not understand how a coach who supposedly preaches defense can put such a combination on the floor.

    and i don’t know why Joe Dumars, as great of a two way player as he was, signs these one way players. You can make a strong case for drafting Daye and letting him develop but there is no excuse for signing Gordon & CV. They were already vets in the league. You could see their game and their deficiencies and most observers would have predicted that not much would change on the defensive end – and they would be right.

    We need two way players.  No more CV’s. No more Ben Gordon’s. Even Big Ben, as great on the defensive end as he is – is a coaching liability on the offensive end of the floor.

    • Mar 24, 20118:12 am
      by Dan Feldman


      It wasn’t even three minutes until Kuester made a sub.

      Stopped attacking the basket? They took three jumpers before Kuester made a sub. What does that prove? The starters’ last four shots of the third quarter were jumpers, too.

  • Mar 24, 201110:39 am
    by Steve K


    Would someone actually take CV’s salary? That’s a minor shock to me. I assumed he’s stuck a Piston like the rest of this lot.

  • Mar 24, 201112:29 pm
    by Fennis


    You speak nothing but the truth. Kuester’s hockey shift rotations are indicative of a simplistic approach to coaching. Whatever happened to in-game adjustments? Our abundance of one-way players is indicative of Joe Dumars’ momentary laps in judgment. Dumars can rectify his mistakes, Kuester has reached his ceiling.

  • Mar 24, 201112:30 pm
    by Fennis


    *”lapse in judgment”

  • Mar 24, 201112:55 pm
    by bg8


    i think the pistons lost the game in the third quarter when kuester decided not to make any changes in the line up except the wilcox for stuckey. i think he should’ve taken rip/prince/or mcgrady out earlier in the 3rd (like the 4min mark) and have them come back in at the start of the 4th. you know lebron/bosh/wade or some kind of combo of them will be in at the start of the 4th. but instead, kuester decide to go all bench guy to start the 4th, with 4 of those guy probably hasn’t seen the court in like an hour of real time, your two biggest scoring threat played like 6min each, and you expect them to be able to stop a heats run and you know a heats run is coming. im not supraise they went scorless in the 4th whne those 5 were on the court.

    anyway, im just wondering why we hardly ever see rip and bg on the court together. i think they could be deadly on the court together. im not much of a x and o guy, but what if they had rip do a midrange curl on one side of the court, gordon does a curl that gets him to the 3point line on the other side of the court and have stuckey/tmac decide who to pass the ball to. that would be 2 great shooting option, and you could have the big roll to the basket instead of setting a screen for another possible option. then once the ball gets to bg or rip, they have the option of shooting it or passing it to a rolling big. i don’t know, i just think that would be a good play to run with both of them on the court

    • Mar 24, 20117:29 pm
      by Tim


      Hey you sound like Keith Langlois! BG and Rip playing together has been tried. It doesn’t work as well as it could in a pipe dream.

      • Mar 24, 201110:22 pm
        by bg8


        it hasn’t been tried enough. just don’t remember them playing together that much except sometime in the 4th. i would like to see some kind of stats with those two on the court together

        and im sure when those 2 did play together, one of them is probably standing in the corner doing nothing. they’re just not being use correctly while they are on the court together

        • Mar 25, 201112:42 pm
          by Dan Feldman


          Usual caveats about small sample size and who they’re playing with and against (although considering your built-in excuse about them not being used correctly, the caveats are superfluous), but with Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon on the court:

          • Minutes: 191.86
          • Offensive rating: 108.61
          • Defensive rating: 115.04
          Basically, with those two on the court together, the Pistons have played like an above-average offensive team and the worst defensive team of all time.

          • Mar 25, 20112:03 pm
            by bg8

            thanks for the info. i still think those two could work together if just given a chance. you sign bg expecting him to be playing with hamilton on the court at the sametime, but they just aren’t given any chance to do it. no consistency at all so its hard for both guys to get into any kind of rythm with each other

          • Mar 25, 20112:26 pm
            by Dan Feldman

            I don’t think Gordon was signed to play with Hamilton. I think Dumars expected to trade Hamilton in the near future. But then Hamilton got hurt. Then the team went up for sale. Then Hamilton started playing terribly. All of a sudden, he was basically untradeable.

    • Mar 25, 20112:19 am
      by khandor


      The Pistons lost this game when John Kuester removed Rip Hamilton from the floor to the start the 4th quarter [DET 81; Mia 73] and, then, did not go back to him until the 6:43 mark [DET 81; Mia 86], after the flood-gates had already been opened and the cow had fled the barn … i.e. when the Heat went on a 13-0 run to start the final frame. When the Pistons had the following players on the floor together:

      PG and OG – Any 2 of Stuckey or Hamilton or Gordon
      SF - Any 1 of Prince or McGrady or Daye
      PF and C - Any 2 of Maxiell, Monroe or Wilcox

      they were highly competitive with one of the best teams in the league this season.  

      The Pistons’ main problems this season have not been rooted in the performance of these 9 players, in concert with one another, according to the combinations shown above.

      Their main problems have been rooted in the poor decision-making skills of John Kuester and the ineffective way he has handled the OTHER players on Detroit’s roster, in concert with one another AND the 9 players’ names listed above.

  • [...] Miami won a close one in Detroit on Wednesday, and Charlie Villanueva appears to be the latest Piston upset with coach John Kuester. [...]

  • Mar 25, 20111:54 am
    by khandor


    The acquisition of Charlie Villanueva was a mistake by Joe Dumars, and the Pistons will be significantly improved, if they can unload him on another team prior to the start of next season. In the NBA, one-way Big Men, who are totally disinterested in playing individual and team defense, are a waste of time … even if they can stretch the floor, on occasion, as a result of their perimeter shooting skills. Even though Monroe, Maxiell, Wilcox and Wallace can’t really shoot the ball, at all, Detroit is much better off any time they have some combination of those 4 Bigs on the floor together, than they are whenever Charlie V. is included in the mix. 

  • Mar 25, 201111:23 am
    by rick


    Man, why cant Rodney do that every time he drives?

    To me, thats what makes LeBron so unstoppable, because he can get to the basket at will, and you know if you dont foul him, he’s going to dunk it. You cant just try to play solid defense and hope he misses a lay-up.

    Rodney is one of the few players in the league aside from LeBron that can get to the basket at will too. He has size and strength, so idk why he doesnt go for the dunk EVERY time.

    He’s an excellent FT shooter too. IMO, the only reason LeBron ever not goes hard for the dunk is because he’s afraid of missing FT when he gets hammered. Stuckey can use that to his advantage.

    If he goes in hard like that for the dunk every time, he’s either going to slam it, or get fouled and just get it at the line instead. Or, even result in many more 3pt plays.

    I hope this is something he is planning on adding to his game now that he is older and more confident.

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