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Win or lose, fans will watch efforts like the one the Pistons gave against Indiana

In consecutive games, Brandon Knight (vs. Cleveland), Greg Monroe (vs. Boston) and now, Jonas Jerebko against the Pacers on Saturday have given three reasons to continue watching the Pistons this season. On Saturday, they even won.

The Pistons set an early tone by playing with toughness, contesting Indiana’s shots, running and making hustle plays and Jerebko, who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, was the catalyst of that effort. It rubbed off on Monroe who, despite picking up two quick fouls on moving screens, kept himself on the court the rest of the game (unlike in the opener), finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Knight didn’t shoot the ball well, but he played under control. Rodney Stuckey bounced back from a terrible performance against Boston — 1-for-11 shooting — to score 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He and Knight combined for 13 assists and seven turnovers. (* Note: Stuckey’s turnover line looked much better until the final minute or so. He had just two turnovers until Indiana’s late pressure forced him into steals by Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough)

Interestingly, it was the young players, particularly the frontcourt, leading the charge while veterans played the supporting role, something that rarely happened last year. As we’ve seen, defense inside the paint has plagued the Pistons so far this season. Monroe and Jerebko were much better defensively against the Pacers, but both still give up a lot of strength to Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and David West. Thanks to veterans Ben Wallace and Jason Maxiell spelling the starters for short but productive defensive minutes, Hibbert, Hansbrough and West barely factored into Saturday’s game. The trio combined for 39 rebounds in the season opener. On Saturday, they combined for 15 rebounds. Maxiell actually gave his first productive minutes of the season with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and no turnovers in about 13 minutes.

Tayshaun Prince didn’t have a great game, but in a few second half stretches when the Pistons needed baskets, he loomed large. In the third quarter, he hit a running bank shot to push the Pistons lead to 13. Just a couple minutes later after an Indiana basket, he hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 14. With less than five minutes to go in the fourth and Indiana on a run that cut the lead to seven, Prince hit a three to push the lead back to 10.

Ben Gordon shot the ball well, didn’t over-dribble and for the third straight game, he finished with four or more assists.

But with Indiana making a furious rally in the final minute, down by six points and with the ball after a Paul George steal, it was again the Pistons’ young players putting things away. Jerebko stole the ball from Paul George. Prince missed a jumper with the shot clock running down, but Monroe tipped it in to give the Pistons an eight-point lead and put the game out of reach.

The game wasn’t significant simply because the Pistons got a much-needed win before embarking on a one of the toughest parts of the schedule they’ll face this season. It was important because in getting the win, they looked much different for the first time under Lawrence Frank than they did under John Kuester.

Young players played prominent roles. The guard rotation — with Stuckey coming out early in the first quarter to allow Knight to get into the game early — made sense. Despite the need for Wallace’s defense, Frank resisted the urge to play him too much (an urge Kuester could rarely resist) and limited Wallace to only 10 minutes. The ball moved. Players certainly made mistakes, but also looked to atone for those mistakes by getting back on defense and playing hard.

In short, the Pistons made progress, and not just because they won. Win or lose, this would’ve been the first game Frank would’ve been able to walk away from and reference as an important point when the young players started to ‘get it,’ the veterans started to buy in and as a whole, everyone looked to be figuring out their roles. The win is nice, but the other accomplishments are far more important to a rebuilding team. This team could still lose a lot of games, but as long as they lose playing as hard and as tough as they did against Indiana, fans will continue to buy in and watch.

Frontcourt dominance

Late update via MFMP from Detroit Bad Boys/the comments below:

After plenty of research, I found that only two other players in Pistons history have put up at least 19 points and 11 rebounds in a single game– Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Twice in their careers, Laimbeer and Mahorn did what Jonas and Greg did tonight.

On December 8th, 1987, Rick Mahorn put up 20 points and 20 rebounds next to Bill Laimbeer, who scored 30 points and 14 rebounds. Over a month later, on January 22nd, 1988, Mahorn put up 19 points and 12 rebounds while Laimbeer recorded 21 and 14. And for the third time in franchise history, Monroe and Jerebko joined these Pistons greats with one of the three most collectively dominant frontcourt games Detroit fans have ever seen.

Great hustle, Mike. Your looking up obscure basketball stats on New Year’s brought a tear to my eye.

Austin Daye gets benched

One young player who didn’t figure prominently in Saturday’s game was Daye. After hitting 5-of-11 shots against Boston, I was hopeful Daye might be breaking out of his annual beginning of the year shooting slump. But against the Pacers, Daye played about six first half minutes, missed all three shots he attempted (two of them were blocked) and he turned it over once. He’s made just 5-of-22 shots on the season (23 percent) and he didn’t play in the second half. His minutes went to Damien Wilkins instead.

Wilkins didn’t fare much better, missing both of his shot attempts and getting a rebound and an assist. But if Daye doesn’t find his stroke, there’s really not a reason to play him. Wilkins isn’t an offensive threat, but he’s a more natural perimeter defender than Daye and if he comes in, plays solid defense (the Pistons held Pacers wings Paul George and Danny Granger to 6-for-20 shooting) and plays with the energy Frank is looking for, Daye could for the third straight year find himself buried on the depth chart early in the season.

His shot is too good for it to not come around at some point, but with Gordon entrenched in the starting lineup and Charlie Villanueva due back any time, Frank may find that he doesn’t need three offensive specialists in his rotation.

Speaking of Villanueva …

Villanueva’s suspension was over, meaning he actually could’ve played today. Frank said before the game that he didn’t know how much Villanueva would play tonight. Turns out, not at all. Frank said that Villanueva had sat out a practice and he also missed a preseason game tending to a personal matter. The Pistons are too thin up front to not pencil Villanueva into the rotation, but with the Jerebko/Monroe combo going so well and Maxiell playing solid off the bench, the Pistons didn’t have a need to rush him back in today.

Happy New Year!

Have fun out there tonight. Feel free to check back in throughout the evening and leave your surly comments from wherever you might be partying. Be safe folks, and thanks for reading this past year! We look forward to an even more interesting 2012 that hopefully includes less lockouts and player revolts. OK … some player revolts … just less.

24 Comments

  • Dec 31, 20118:53 pm
    by vic

    Reply

    This game was good partly because of the coaching. Only 6 players played over 20 minutes. That type of smart and decisive coaching is what we have been missing the past few years and the first few games of this year. Our rotation should go 7 or 8 deep.Knight would have been better in the 4th quarter than stuckey, or at least the last 5 minutes. He shoots better and is a better finisher. Stuckey usually misses layups or turns the ball over in the last few minutes of a pressure game.

    • Dec 31, 20119:01 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Agreed on the coaching/rotation. There are things I disagree with — I think Knight should start and I don’t like Will Bynum getting DNP-CDs — but love that he seems to be sticking with his rotation every game.

  • Dec 31, 20118:58 pm
    by vic

    Reply

    stuckey did the same things last year. He’s not a closer. Knight is. Knight is known for making big shots and finishing games. The ball should always be in Knights hands late in the 4th quarter.

    • Dec 31, 20119:00 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yeah, but coaches always trust veterans more late in games. I would guess that will be the next step with Knight … I would anticipate that we’ll see him more and more down the stretch in games first, then we’ll eventually see him starting.

      • Dec 31, 201110:06 pm
        by gordbrown

        Reply

        Knight was in late but made a couple of bad bone headed plays and was pulled. I agree Stuckey’s line would have been better but for the last minute, but Stuckey always seems to have bad luck in that regard. If they called half of the fouls he earns but don’t call he would be a star (or if he were a star he would get twice the calls he gets). That last turnover was clearly a foul, karma guided the ball to Jerebko.

  • Dec 31, 20119:15 pm
    by Steve K

    Reply

    Knight and stuck both had some bad turns in this one, so I don’t think there was a perfect solution to close this one out. My only quibble was when frank had knight out there with Wilkins, maxiell, JJ, and stuck. Just not enough offense in that group. Indy made a run with that group on the court.

    Great write-up, tho. Solid win. Hard to believe this is the same team that got blown out the previous 3.

  • Dec 31, 20119:26 pm
    by labatts

    Reply

    Happy New Year, Patrick!  Looking forward to a new year of great articles =)

  • Dec 31, 201110:01 pm
    by flip

    Reply

    Happy New Year!

    Pistons played great tonight. I thought Frank coached great too, and we’re starting to see all his work payoff on the court. They played together, the ball moved on offense, they helped each other on defense, played with passion for 48 min, and just looked like a real, confident team tonight, with a future ahead of them to keep building on, for the first time in over 3 yrs.

    They won games under Kuester, but never did I feel like the wins were anything to build on. This was different. You can see that they are improving and have no reason to believe the improvement won’t continue as they grow, which is awesome.

    Monroe looking like a low post beast this soon is scary. I thought he was capable of avg 20/10/4, but not for at least another 3-4 yrs. Scrap the first 2 games, where he still seemed uncomfortable adjusting to the featured big man role, and he’s avg 21 pts, 10 rebs, and 4 asts/gm on 17-24 FG for 71% FG.

    Those numbers are ridiculous for him in his 2nd year, and he seems to do it with ease to where I see no reason he can’t duplicate that type of game every game.

    Everytime IND made a mini-run he called for the ball in the low post and delivered. And when the double he found the open man for 4 asts. It was fun to watch. Now, I’m excited about this team for the first time in years.

  • Dec 31, 201110:05 pm
    by Jayg108

    Reply

    JJ had some mighty 3′s and timely rebounds.  Great role model for the rest of the team.  I didn’t get to see the end of the game.  Glad they pulled it off.
     
    Happy New Year!!!

  • Dec 31, 201110:07 pm
    by flip

    Reply

    btw LOVE this new and improved Ben Gordon. You summed it up perfect, Patrick, this new Gordon dribbles MUCH less and dishes out about 4 asts/gm now. And he looks a multi-dimensional guard for the first time in his career. If he can keep this up and keep his stroke  going like this, I see no reason to trade him, because he’s looking like a great guard.

    I think Franks coaching staff is starting to show its getting through, as I saw more improvements in these players games tonight than I’ve seen the past 2 years. Even Maxiell looked like a competent bench guy again. Could just be a coincidence that all had great games on the same night, but I lean more towards good coaching is making his players better.

    • Dec 31, 201110:16 pm
      by apa8ren9

      Reply

      Let me second that on Gordon.  I hated his game because he always took the shot that was contested instead of the open one.  You can see that Frank has crafted this offense so that he doesnt have those isolations to fall back into bad habits.  He is taking the shot right away.  He’s not taking those pump-faking stepback fallaway 20 ft contested jumpers anymore.  And Greg Monroe is just improving each game, its amazing because it doesnt seem like he should be able to do it but he does.  Im going to take another swig of the koolaid now.  Im happy for one night.  Happy New Year!

      • Dec 31, 201111:11 pm
        by Steve K

        Reply

        I’m thrilled Gordon looked better because it’ll be easier to trade him. Sorry, but even a rejuvenated BG ain’t worth the money.

        • Jan 1, 20122:56 am
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Maybe not worth the money, but a hell of a lot more fun to watch. And I definitely agree — anything he can do to show the rest of the league he’s capable of bouncing back from his two year hiatus is a huge plus.

  • Dec 31, 201111:07 pm
    by Marvin Jones

    Reply

    Wow, the Pistons win and no Laser, simply amazing!!

    • Jan 1, 20122:55 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Haha, he’ll be here to soon to remind everyone that this is just one win and the Pistons will probably go 1-65 this season. You can set your watch to him.

      • Jan 1, 20122:31 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        Being a fan of a bad team is a weird thing. Yo9u never know whether to root for them to win or to lose. I’m sure Laser will be happy to point out the downsides of this win. And with the next loos we can get back to the harping on the incompetence of Dumars (which I actually partly agree with).

    • Jan 1, 20127:46 am
      by swish22

      Reply

      The roster is still a mess as laser has pointed out numerous times.   My hats off to the coaching staff for preaching defense and making players accountable if their not playing 110% on that end of the floor!   Awesome to see JJ finally break back through with that inspirational play.  BG seems to be finding some rhythm playing OFF the ball.   Were 1-3 and I’d argue thjat’s about where were at as a team right now .250%.    If we improve maybe we hit .400+ by the end of the year and compete for the 8th spot but highly unlikely with our lack of interior depth! 

  • Jan 1, 20122:23 am
    by Chuck

    Reply

    Happy New Year from Largo, FL. Glad the Pistons finally got a win!

  • Jan 1, 20122:28 am
    by Mike Payne

    Reply

    I mentioned this on DBB tonight, but had to share it here since it’s pretty significant.  The last time a pair of Pistons bigs put up 19 and 11 or better was 24 years ago.  And this is the third time it’s happened in franchise history.  Moose and Jerebko, you make this team worth watching.
     
    Also, hey Chuck, I’m in Tampa, and always looking for Pistons fans down here!

    • Jan 1, 20122:54 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Thanks Mike! Just added a link.

    • Jan 1, 20124:02 am
      by gmehl1977

      Reply

      Damn after looking at the box scores i was actually trying to rack the brain on when was the last time i could remember 2 pistons getting close to 20/10 in the same game. Instantly i thought Big Ben and Rasheed would of come close but Ben would of come up short in the points.

    • Jan 1, 20129:37 am
      by vic

      Reply

      Thats really good news. It was only a matter of time before they both clicked.Now we’ve got our future 3 and 4 in Jerebko and Monroe. We got our future 1 in Brandon Knight. We’ve got 3 2s to choose from in Gordon, Stuckey, and Daye.  Now all we need to do is fil l that huge gaping hole in the middle with Andre Drummond OR Anthony Davis OR Meyers Leonard OR Cody Zeller OR Steven Adams… and we’ll be ready to contend for the next round of championships by 2015

  • Jan 1, 20129:03 am
    by Murph

    Reply

    Congrats to Lawrence Frank for ending his streak at 20. 

    Great games by Monroe and JJ.

    I’m just about ready to give up on the Autin Daye experiment.  Hopefully, next year, Singler’s presence on the team will make Daye renundant as our 3rd or 4th string SF, and we can let Daye walk.

  • Jan 1, 201210:32 am
    by Max

    Reply

    I’m having lots of, “I told you so….”, moments while reading this thread, but it’s great to find the shrill voice of unreasonable, illogical hopelessness mostly absent for once.  It’s amazing what one win and players playing well on the same night can do.
     
    BTW: Haven’t seen much on here about Prince being limited by an injury but I play a lot of fantasy basketball and the current update for Prince on ESPN says he’s been playing injured so far and should be stashed until his knee is healthy.

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