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With Rodney Stuckey injured, Brandon Knight fills bigger role, but can’t match Kyrie Irving; Pistons top Cavs, anyway

Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving probably have similar ceilings. But Irving is much, much, much, much more polished, and that’s why he went No. 1 in the draft – seven spots ahead of Knight.

The difference between the two was abundantly clear in the Pistons’ 87-75 win over the Cavaliers tonight.

Either by pick-and-rolls or straight drives, Irving (22 points, nine rebounds and six assists) got wherever he wanted while Knight guarded him. Knight never bumped Irving on the perimeter, allowing Irving to get a full head of steam, and that point, Knight didn’t have the lateral quickness to keep Irving out of the lane. Once in the paint, Irving typically made the right decision, shooting or passing.

By comparison, Will Bynum, not exactly the best defender, did a much better job of keeping Irving on the perimeter or forcing him into off-balance drives. Of course, the talented Irving still converted some of those looks.

On the other end, it almost like Knight wanted to prove he could match Irving, which I didn’t necessarily mind for a couple reasons. 1. Rodney Stuckey left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury, leaving a huge playmaking burden on Knight. 2. Knight attempted to duplicate Irving with such vigor, I had to appreciate his effort.

But Knight’s most consistent halfcourt offensive skill is shooting spot-up jumpers, and when he tried to drive, the results were mixed. His drives seemed more strained than Irving’s, and rather than ending with an easy layup or pass, Knight – if he didn’t already have the ball knocked away – had to force something. Knight looked like he took a beating, consistently throwing himself into defenders. That showed great determination, but not necessarily great results.

On one occasion, Irving baited Knight into throwing a pass, swooped into the passing lane and took off for a layup that the Pistons stopped only by fouling.

I like the signs from Knight (16 points, five assists and four rebounds), and I love the grit. But Irving is on a whole other level, and that just shows how far Knight has to go.

Greg Monroe gets force fed with negative result

In his previous four games Greg Monroe has scored just 10, 12, 5 and 13 points. The big reason he was scoring  below his scoring average was because two other stats were below his average:

Field-goal attempts: 4, 10, 5 and 9.

Free-throw attempts: 4, 2, 1 and 2

Monroe often deserves many shots because he establishes good position, uses his hands to securely receive passes and works his feet adeptly to create a good look. A lot typically goes right before he releases the ball.

That wasn’t the case tonight.

The Pistons force fed him the ball, and he seemed intent on shooting more often than not, regardless of how the defense played him. Maybe this was the plan to get him out of his slump. If that was the case, I didn’t like it, and it didn’t work.

Aside from putbacks, Monroe (eight points, 10 rebounds and three turnovers) shot 3-of-12. I don’t see how forcing bad looks – whether his impromptu decisions within the offense or by design – helps get him back on track.

Tayshaun Prince steps up

I’ve spent most of the recap discussing what went wrong, but obviously something went right, because the Pistons won. A lot of what went right was Tayshaun Prince.

Rodney Stuckey left the game in the first quarter, and Ben Gordon was already out, leaving the Pistons desperate for a scorer.

Enter Prince.

He scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting  with no turnovers. In that time, his teammates shot 37 percent with eight turnovers.

Prince showed all his scoring skills – making 4-of-4 3-pointers, putting the ball on the floor to get to the rim, finishing in transition and posting up. He delivered exactly what the Pistons needed.

Greg Monroe and Austin Daye defend well

I already praised Will Bynum’s defense, so this post might be unprecedented, because I’m about to praise Greg Monroe’s and Austin Daye’s defense, too.

I don’t know if Monroe (two steals and two blocks) and Daye (two steals and two blocks) made every rotation correctly, but when they were near the player with the ball, they did an excellent job contesting shots. Both weren’t afraid to be a little physical, and both used their length inside.

If they defend like that the rest of the season, I’ll be thrilled.

26 Comments

  • Mar 28, 20129:48 pm
    by Mark

    Reply

    I think your assessment that “Knight couldnt match Irving” is way off. Aside from rebounding, and Irving taking/making a few more shots, I thought they played pretty much even. I could even make the case Knight got the better of Irving.

    They were matched up most of the night, and Knight finished +14, while Irving was -10. Hard to say the +14 PG couldn’t match the -10 PG, when he had his team +24 pts difference when both were on the floor. Knight had less TO’s, abot the same assists, and they shot same FG%. And in the end, Knight led his team to a 12 pt win. 

    All that said, Knight definitely “matched” Irving, imo, if not more. 

    • Mar 28, 20129:50 pm
      by Mark

      Reply

      btw, I agree Irving is the more polished PG right now, but every time they have matched up thus far in their career, Knight has played him pretty even, imo.

  • Mar 28, 20129:51 pm
    by Mel

    Reply

    I have to agree with your analysis. But what Knight brings as far as grit I’ll take because it helps motivate the rest of the team. Irving deserves the # 1 spot hands down. But Knight won’t be too far behind once he plays to his strengths.

  • Mar 28, 20129:58 pm
    by Daye and Knight

    Reply

    If Knight could get more explosive, attacking the rim, and was still able to shoot from downtown, he would have a Westbrook like ceiling. He needs to work on that this summer.

    • Mar 28, 201210:06 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I don’t know how realistic that is. Westbrook is not only a freak athlete, but he’s much stronger than Knight too. That size/athleticism combo is pretty rare. Closest thing the Pistons have to it is Stuckey, and even he can’t go up and over people with the ease Russ can.

      Knight is more explosive at the rim when he’s moving without the ball. If he’s cutting, he can get up high and finish lobs (like the ones Prince has been throwing him lately). I’d like to see Knight continue to work on his floater. His game might be better served if he works on getting that off in traffic rather than getting all the way to the rim. Not sure he’ll ever have the strength/explosion to be a finisher like that.

      • Mar 28, 201210:42 pm
        by Daye and Knight

        Reply

        True, it’s highly unlikely Knight can have the same explosiveness Westbrook has. Knight could hit the weights and surprise us all, him and Westbrook aren’t far apart as far as height and weight. Westbrook was 6-3 190 his rookie season while Knight entering as a rookie is 6-4 185. Knight would have to definitely hit the weights if he wanted to even come close to Westbrook.
         
        That being said, working on his floater is more realistic and something he seems more comfortable with, and if he works on that and gets better with a real training camp and maybe even some burn in the summer leagues, we might have something special here.

        • Mar 28, 201211:23 pm
          by Pistons87

          Reply

          Westbrook is an athletic freak there is no amount of training knight or anyone else could do to gain westbrooks explosion. However, neither does deron Williams or Chris Paul or Steve Nash or tony have that kind I athletic ability an they are still great players. The worst thing could do is model his game after someone like Westbrook. I personally think he should try picking up tony Parker’s skill set, the floater and the mid range game with solid defense.

          • Mar 29, 20128:17 am
            by Steve K

            +1

      • Mar 28, 201210:55 pm
        by Chris H

        Reply

        There are definitely ways to train to be more explosive.  I’m not sure how well it would work with what Knight has to do in the off season though.  That being said, every person has their own individual limits, I’m not sure what Knight’s are.  Also if he has the explosiveness while taking lobs, then maybe the issue is ball control.

        • Mar 28, 201211:10 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          I just meant that Westbrook is a unique combo of physical skills — explosion, hops, strength, ball control — and it’s rare to find all of those things in one player. Stuckey I would say has three of the four, missing the ball control element (believe I read that he has small hands). I just don’t see Knight developing that kind of above the rim game. Not impossible, just not probable.

          • Mar 29, 20123:26 pm
            by apa8ren9

            Im going to go out on a limb a bit but the type of player I see Knight developing into is a  better version of Doc Rivers.   Now Im hoping he becomes much better than that but right now I see someone who at this point cant totally take anyone off the dribble but can run the offense competently and can sneak past you and make you pay as well as make the basic simple passes.  He hasnt shown any flashiness in his game yet.  At this point its all fundamental bounce passes and pretty much keeping within the structure of what Frank has set for him.  However you can see that he plays very hard and is improving daily on the basics of running the team and recognizing clock and getting the ball in the right places.

  • Mar 28, 201210:24 pm
    by Reaction

    Reply

    Honestly Daye is confusing me. Is he or is he not a good basketball player? He seemed to play fairly well today but he is not consistent at all. I wish he would get more time so that we can see what exactly he has to offer (if anything at all)

    • Mar 28, 201210:52 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Well, now is his best chance to show something. He looked like a competent NBA player tonight. Hopefully he builds on it, because it looks like there will be some minutes for him in the immediate future with Stuckey and Gordon both injured.

  • Mar 28, 201210:49 pm
    by Jodi Jezz

    Reply

    Irving had 5 TO’s compared to 3 from Knight, in addition Knight shot 2/3 from the 3pter…Knight’s team also won the game!..I think Knight had the better game, lets give the young fellow credit…

    • Mar 28, 201211:09 pm
      by Reaction

      Reply

      I’m not so sure about that.. from a statistical standpoint Irving had a significantly better game than Knight. Its just his team had no shooters that could find a good stroke/defend well. He had more pts, rebounds, and assists than Knight

      • Mar 29, 201212:24 am
        by jame

        Reply

        Knights assists would be much higher if he had more reliable shooters.

    • Mar 29, 20128:24 am
      by Steve K

      Reply

      Based on the eyeball test, I’d have to agree with Dan. Irving’s points seemed significantly easier. Knight had to scrape and claw and didn’t run the offense like Irving.

      With that said, the bottom line in this game is winning, and Knight’s team won. He deserves credit for that. But when comparing the players mano a mano?  Irving is the more polished, NBA-ready player. He sees the game like a veteran and shoots a much higher %.

      I do like seeing these head-to-head matchups. They seem to bring out the best in both players.

  • Mar 28, 201211:17 pm
    by jayg108

    Reply

    Nice to see Tayshaun getting his buckets.  Anybody think he can repeat his performance against the Bulls?

  • Mar 29, 201212:27 am
    by tarsier

    Reply

    What a disappointing result. The Pistons pass both the Cavs and the Kings tonight moving the nominal pre-lottery pick from 6th to 8th.

    • Mar 29, 20128:07 am
      by vic

      Reply

      yes, i agree its a little disappointing at first glance…but when you think about it:       all it means is that we’re better than most of the teams that got higher picks than us the past couple of years.       plus our top 2 guards didnt play so its not like we didnt have the same effect as “tanking”….    that speaks well to our drafting and coaching. and this draft is pretty deep so we can get good picks again if we draft smart.   and if thhat doesnt make you feel better, hopefully our schedule will get harder the last few games

      • Mar 29, 20125:35 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        I like the idea of the team being good. But winning a close game doesn’t really show that a team is much better than losing a close one. It is within the margins of how a few balls bounced. Now, if Detroit blew out the Cavs by 20-30 points, I would not be disappointed at all.

    • Mar 29, 201210:10 am
      by sebastian

      Reply

      tarsier, I have believed throughout this season that WE will draft somewhere from 6th – 8th, so Joe just may as well do the necessary research that will be required to select the best player on the board that will fit OUR needs.
      I, unlike many of the poster here, think that WE should draft Perry Jones III. Jones III will be an excellent starting SF. On the Pistons roster, he would be an offensive force, able to score from multiple positions on the floor. He is also a willing and skilled passer and his handle is superb for a player his size. Also, at 6’11″ he will be able to defend the SF position.
      Perry Jones III will not be the second-coming of Austin Daye.

  • Mar 29, 20126:42 am
    by Mikko

    Reply

    I cant believe there`s no mention of Maxiells play. He got his 12 points on 66% shooting, atleast 3 of those midrange jumpers. Plus he had 4 offensive rebounds, 3 blocks, atleast 2 charges drawn and two huge putback dunks. If you look at his effort in this game forget that he propably wont match that at nighly basis,  I think that looks a bit like someone we would like to have paired with Greg Monroe in the future.

    • Mar 29, 20128:27 am
      by Steve K

      Reply

      Great point. Maxiell was incredible. That block on Tristan Thompson was a thing of beauty.

  • Mar 29, 20128:30 am
    by domnick

    Reply

    about greg monroe’s number going down… i believe detroit is going to make him score alot depending on Matchups…. and he benefits better whenever he bullies a bad defender than forcing himself against a good defender…

  • Mar 29, 20129:16 am
    by jb

    Reply

    Is it me or has Monroe looked pretty bad on offense lately? It seems like he’s losing the ball way too often and missing shots he was making earlier in the season.

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