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Pistons resort to anti-tanking measures against Timberwolves, lose anyway

The Pistons didn’t tank tonight.

Whether you find it terrifying they could lose 91-80 to Minnesota or comforting they increased in their lottery odds, I really don’t believe the Pistons tanked tonight. Here’s what I wrote about the Pistons tanking during their 32-point loss to the Hawks the night before:

Here’s my guess – and it’s nothing more than that: Frank thought he could implement the coaching part of tanking (using suboptimal lineups) without the players exercising their part of tanking (not playing hard).

It didn’t work.

The players quit, and that’s why Frank was so terse after the game. Frank stuck his toes in the tanking pool against a playoff opponent rather than jumping in against another tanking team, Cleveland, the previous night. I don’t think he has the stomach for it, and I think the Pistons’ regular rotation players – plus Vernon Macklin – will play bigger minutes against the Timberwolves tonight.

Frank then went about proving his anti-tanking credentials and my prediction, starting by going out of his way before tonight’s game to say the Pistons didn’t tank yesterday. Then, he tightened his rotation. Against Minnesota. On April 19.

Through three quarters, Austin Daye (30 minutes yesterday), Will Bynum (16 minutes yesterday) and Walker Russell (12 minutes yesterday) hadn’t played, Macklin (23 minutes yesterday) had played three minutes and Damien Wilkins (19 minutes yesterday) had played four minutes.

It appeared the Pistons on the court were trying, though their ineffectiveness led to what might have looked like a sign of tanking – Charlie Villanueva playing 23 minutes, many of them at center – but wasn’t actually tanking.

That was just the Pistons’ lack of athleticism being amplified by playing their third game game in three nights and facing an athletic opponent. Besides Tayshaun Prince (18 points, five rebounds and three assists), who rested yesterday, the Pistons looked shockingly slow. Especially with Ben Wallace out to attend a funeral, the slender Villanueva was necessary at center.

The Pistons trailed by 20 before Frank went deeper down the bench during the fourth quarter – as practically any coach would on practically any team in practically any situation – bringing in Bynum, who made the score somewhat respectable.

The Pistons were that hapless against the Timberwolves, a tanking expert who went 0-24 in their previous two Aprils. At least Detroit lost, guaranteeing it can’t finish with a better record than Minnesota.

I don’t begrudge the Pistons for refusing to tank (or at least refusing to take extreme tanking measures), and I wouldn’t be upset if they returned to tanking like they apparently did in Atlanta. Really, I’m ambivalent on their method.

But the Timberwolves, when healthy, are better than the Pistons right now, and Minnesota has a better group of young players. It would be a shame if they got a higher draft pick, too. As pointed out by Max, the Hornets own Minnesota’s first-round pick.

I’m happy the Pistons didn’t try to lose tonight, but I’m even happier they lost.

Most Valuable Player

Nikola Pekovic. Jose Juan Barea (13 points and 12 assists) and Anthony Randolph (15 points and 10 rebounds) had double-doubles, but Pekovic (23 points and nine rebounds) dominated inside – especially with the game close.

Least Valuable Player

Brandon Knight (2-of-12 shooting, one assist in 27 minutes). Knight’s struggles, given that he’s a rookie, are understandable, but they look even worse considering…


Will Bynum. Bynum didn’t play until the fourth quarter, but he finished with 17 points and almost single-handedly engineered a Detroit comeback.


  • Apr 19, 201210:20 pm
    by Haan


    17 points in 12 minutes!?

  • Apr 19, 201210:22 pm
    by Fennis


    I don’t know if you’re bored or simply depressed about the state of the franchise but this accusation of tanking on paper thin evidence undermines your credibility. I’m accustomed to thoughtful relatively objective commentary from this outlet.
    You guys are better than that.

  • Apr 19, 201210:23 pm
    by kamal


    This is the worst Piston team I’ve ever seen.  Even when during the awful Teal years, the team still played to it’s strengths; Grant Hill penetrating and kicking to the shooters when defenders collapsed.  This team baffles the shit out of me.  We have one of the few dominant big men in the league and we treat him like he’s Amir Johnson.

    Why do our guards and wings shoot so much?  Why doesn’t Frank call more plays for Monroe in the post?  Hell, why doesn’t he post Monroe up?  He gets Monroe the ball on the perimeter and he has to outleg his man like he’s Amare Stoudemire.  So freaking frustrating.  During the third quarter today, Monroe only took one shot and didn’t take it until the 5:05 mark. WTF?  HE’S THE LEADING SCORER ON THE TEAM!!!!!!

    I know Monroe’s defense sucks but part of a good defense is a good offense.  They don’t let Monroe attack the opposing bigs.  

    I hope Frank knows this and is just running the offense he is sure will get us more ping pong balls.  If Frank is TRULY trying to win games, ignoring the post and allowing the guards and wings to jack up shots early in the shot clock, then Joe whiffed again on another coaching choice. 

    • Apr 20, 20127:03 am
      by tarsier


      I absolutely believe last year’s team was worse.

      • Apr 20, 20128:00 am
        by Daye and Knight


        Last year was much worse than this years, we had the worst coach in league history back then

        • Apr 20, 201211:04 am
          by kamal


          I say this year, because we should be so much better.  Our roster sucked last year and the coach was God awful.  Last year, nobody knew what they were doing.  

          This team’s roster is more balanced.  They don’t have all the turmoil in the locker room.  Roles are clearly defined.  We SHOULD be much better.  This team is so frustrating.

          • Apr 20, 20126:24 pm
            by tarsier

            So “This is the worst Piston team you’ve ever seen” because last year’s was worse and this one only has a slightly better record?

    • Apr 20, 20123:38 pm
      by Josh B


      I really don’t see how this team should be that much better than it is. We have a good(not dominant) big man in Monroe, and they’re still undersized on their frontline. Their roles are more clearly defined than they were last year, and I think that’s why this team has played around .500 basketball after that 4-20 start. There was no way this was gonna be a good team this year.

  • Apr 19, 201210:25 pm
    by Eric


    Dear Patrick and Dan

    Please tell coach Frank to “experiment” for the last three games.

  • Apr 19, 201210:25 pm
    by MNM


    Three more games….3…more…games…

  • Apr 19, 201210:29 pm
    by Tiko


    Would be HUUUUUUGE to lose the last 3….

    • Apr 19, 201210:41 pm
      by tim


      why?  At this point its too late to tank.  we wont improve our odds very much, because all the teams with worse records have been tanking for weeks.  3 games of tanking doesnt cut it.  just look at the t-wolves winning % over the last 2 years in april.

      • Apr 19, 201210:54 pm
        by MNM


        It prolly wont by this point. Ill take all we can get at this point though..They are for sure gonna need a lucky bounce. we wont know exactly where we fall untill “ping-pong night” (cant remember when that is..) but the young guys must keep getting much of the burn from here on out.

      • Apr 19, 201211:26 pm
        by Eric


        Wrong. Raptors play the Pistons next. And if the Pistons lose, they will have the exact same record as them. Also, the Warriors, who are just one game apart from the pistons, have 2 winnable remaining games against the Wolves and Hornets.

  • Apr 19, 201210:50 pm
    by Haan


    Huge game coming up against the Raptors.  Win that and we can forget about passing or tieing them.  The Raptors face the Nets, so one of our two rivals will win at least one game.  Time for some real scoreboard watching.  What are the tie-breakers or is that decided by chance? 

    • Apr 19, 201211:42 pm
      by Tiko


      a coin toss can determine whether we pick 6th-9th if there’s a four-way tie between us TOR, NJ, and GS. All would have equal odds I believe at getting a top 3. I’ll take that

  • Apr 19, 201211:52 pm
    by Max


    Don’t the Hornets have the Timberwolves pick?

    • Apr 20, 201212:14 am
      by Dan Feldman


      Good call. Thanks.

      • Apr 20, 20129:21 am
        by sop


        Dan, Great headline for this one. I started dying when I read it. Pistons aren’t allowed to tank at home. Joe D’s orders. But I was happy they lost. Now if NJ, GS or TOR would just win a game…

  • Apr 20, 201212:13 am
    by Lorenzo


    Interesting, seems like the fans want the talent deficient players who have been riding the pine all season to get some burn (48 minutes, not a second less), perform up to potential (all star level..don’t worry 48 minutes for 82 games is the only way to find out), sit the veterans (demand a complete game effort in lieu), win games (lose games), get a good lottery pick (but still win games), while not tanking (win games, sort of, but don’t….). And while we are at it Austin Daye and a Second Rounder for Blake Griffin (he’s pretty much Kevin Durant in the making, who wouldn’t make the deal…actually the second round might be a bit rich), and oh yeah, fire Dumars (why wouldn’t RC Buford and Pop want the gig?) Yes, the world of Pistondom makes perfect sense.

    • Apr 20, 20129:51 am
      by Jeremy


      Hahahaha this is hilarious! Which brings up the question: What do Pistons fans want?

      1) A team that tanks in an attempt to improve its draft opportunities? – which I feel is cheating the game and us as fans.
      2) A team that gives their maximum effort on a nightly basis – whether win or lose?

      My vote is for #2. While the odds are good that you will get a franchise changing player in the top of the draft, there are also odds that you may draft a complete bust (Kwame anyone? Oden? any takers on Oden? Ahh..Darko! Any takers on Darko, who was rated to be THE guy out of the draft, if not second to Queen James?). I believe that talent can be found all through out the draft, given a good scouting team.

      Lets look back at previous drafts and players that were selected where the Pistons are projected to pick and a few beyond just for fun (as of today the #9 spot). I am starting at 1990 because that is the change to the lottery system as we know it today (I know it started in 85, but this is the start of the modern-weighted system):

      1990: Bo Kimble selected #9; Terry Mills at 16, Dee Brown at 19, Elden Campbell at 27
      1991: Stacey Augmon Slected at #9; Greg Anthon taken 12, Dale Davis at 13; Rick Fox at 24
      1992: Clarence Weatherspoon taken at #9; Robert Horry at 11, Jon Barry at 21, Oliver Miller at 22, Latrell Sprewell at 24
      1993: Rodney Rodgers taken at #9; Lindsey Hunter at 10, Allan Houston at 11, Sam Cassell at 24
      1994: Big Country Eric Montross at #9
      1995: Ed O’Bannon at #9; Kurt Thomas at 10, Corliss Williamson at 13, Brent Barry at 15, Theo Ratliff at 18, Michael Finley at 21
      1996: Samaki Walker at #9; Kobe Byrant at 13, Peja Stojakovic at 14, Steve Nash at 15, Jermaine O’Neal at 17, Zydrunas Ilgauskas at 20, Derek Fisher at 24
      1997: T-Mac at #9
      1998: Dirk Nowitziki at #9; Paul Pierce at 10
      1999: Shawn Marion at #9; Jason Terry at 10
      2000: Joel Pryzbilla at #9
      2001: Rodney White at #9; Joe Johnson at 10, Richard Jefferson at 13, Zac Randolph at 19, Brendan Haywood at 20, Gerald Wallace at 25, Samual Dalembert at 26, Tony Parker at 28
      2002: Amare Stoudemire at #9; Caron Butler at 10, Tayshuan at 23
      2003: Mike Sweetney at #9; David West at 18; Kendrick Perkins at 27
      2004: Andre Igoudala at #9;  Al Jefferson at 15, Josh Smith at 17
      2005: Ike Diogu at #9; Andrew Bynum at 10, Danny Granger at 17
      2006: Patrick O’Bryant at #9
      2007: Joakim Noah at #9
      2008: D.J. Augustin at #9
      2009: DeMar De Rozan at #9
      2010: Gordon Haywood at #9
      2011: Kemba Walker at #9

      Based off of the previous 14 drafts or so, I like the chances of landing someone with talent with the #9 pick.

      • Apr 20, 201210:10 am
        by Patrick Hayes


        Yeah, why improve your chances at getting Anthony Davis when this year’s version of Patrick O’Bryant could be sitting there for the taking at nine.

      • Apr 20, 20126:28 pm
        by tarsier


        “A team that tanks in an attempt to improve its draft opportunities? – which I feel is cheating the game and us as fans.”

        I agree. i wish the system could be changed in a way to discourage tanking while still rewarding teams with the greatest need. But as long as the system is the way it is, I want the Pistons to try to work it to their greatest advantage–in this case, by tanking.

  • Apr 20, 201211:09 am
    by Daye and Knight


    And with the 9th pick the Detroit Pistons select…Elhahaji Morocu from ????

  • Apr 20, 201212:07 pm
    by Alek


    17 points really? well dribble dribble dribble 20 sec and then shoot. That’s not the BBall. You can see frustration on other 4 watching “one man show”. Release 12, 31, 8, 5, 54. Brig back Kyle, move 22 and pick for a good big. move JJ to 3. Bring backup SG. It will be at least 6-8 playoff spot. Then everything should be on coach to build contender.

  • Apr 21, 20121:24 pm
    by 2Tough


    Can someone please explain to me how Stuckey has improved so much when his numbers this year are actually WORSE than last year’s across the board?

    • Apr 22, 20125:27 pm
      by Max


      Fact: Pistons this year only counting games when Stuckey played at least 30 minutes.
      4-4 through first twenty games
      11-8  through 21st to 40th game
      1-2 through latest games
      That adds up to a 15 and 14 record.  Nothing to crow about but better than people think and Stuckey was playing hurt all year.   He would have played a lot more minutes otherwise.

  • Apr 22, 20124:17 pm
    by Max


    @2Touch.   Stuckey did make big improvements this year but the yearly averages don’t reflect it for three main reasons:
    1) He started off the season with his role in flux regarding whether he’d come off the bench or not but in either case, he was forced to spend the majority of his minutes at a new position on the floor and that is a major adjustment.   He also signed late so didn’t even get the benefit of a full, truncated training camp.
    2) Very shortly after being signed, Stuckey pulled his groin which, for all we know, continues to bother him until this day.  He did say early on that he knew he was going to have to deal with the injury all year and he seemingly was correct.
    3) After becoming used to his role and achieving a modicum of basic health, Stuckey played the best ball of his career by far around February and March and played the franchise guy Dumars and some Pistons fans have envisioned him to be, but then he got hurt (aggravated his season long injury?) again, missed some games, and has not been quite the same since.
    Beyond the bad luck of incurring a early injury (which might have been due to signing late), the season’s lockout schedule was far more punishing to a pulled groin in general.  I would speculate that even with the early injury, he would healed faster and stayed healthy if given a normal schedule and his numbers would have been by far the best of his career.  Nevertheless, the reason why his improvement is obvious comes down to the best stretch of his career in February and March, having his best and most comfortable year from the three point line, and evincing a better attitude than ever before and even looking like he is having fun out there at times.
    You might have also noticed that the Pistons record was somewhat decent this year when Stuckey started.

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