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Pistons start strong, hold on late for back-to-back wins over first place teams

In the first game of a five-game homestand on Friday, the Pistons surprisingly (maybe shockingly) beat the Atlantic Division leading and defending NBA champion Miami Heat. In the second game o f the homestand on Sunday, Detroit beat the Milwaukee Bucks, who lead the Central Division.

Beating the Bucks — a fringe playoff contender at best in the eyes of most before the season started — is certainly less impressive in itself than beating the Heat. But when you combine the two results, it’s a nice accomplishment in a season that has been had sparse moments that can be described as ‘accomplishments.’ The Pistons, as a lot of young teams do, could’ve very easily come into this game a little too overconfident after such a great performance against the defending champs on Friday. The Pistons — as they’ve done so many times previously this season — could’ve very easily folded when a better team came back in the second half and erased a double digit lead. They didn’t do either of those things, and even if excuses can be made for the Bucks — they were playing the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Heat last night, the Pistons are slowly but surely showing a bit of progress. Talk of ‘turning corners’ or other clichés is probably premature. It’s likely the Pistons are not as good as they’ve looked the last two games. But it’s also likely they’re not as bad as they looked much of the early part of the season.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying, despite more than 40 percent of the season being over, it’s still really hard to conclude what this team is. They’re certainly not a playoff team. But they’re also not one of the dregs of the league either. And with significant young talent with immense upside — specifically Andre Drummond, but also Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight — they’re not just a run of the mill bad team either. Most run of the mill bad teams don’t have a potential franchise player like Drummond is, should he continue developing at his advanced rate.

Tonight’s game didn’t change anything about how bad the Pistons have been most of this season, but steadily, if they continue playing as competitively as they have over the last week, they’re starting to rebuild some of the hope that was lost with their horrid start.

Milwaukee Bucks 94 FinalRecap | Box Score 96 Detroit Pistons
Jason Maxiell, PF 26 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | +5Jason Maxiell hadn’t reached double figures in rebounding since Dec. 10 and he picked up just his second double-double of the season. He and Greg Monroe helped make everyone in Milwaukee’s frontcourt not named Ersan Ilyasova a non-factor.
Tayshaun Prince, SF 35 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -2Prince reached 20 points in a game for the second time this season, but it was his offense down the stretch that helped win this game. As much as most fans have celebrated the fact that Prince in the Isolayshaun (copyright Detroit Bad Boys) offense has been used in Moderayshaun (copyright Patrick Hayes) this season, he’s still probably the most reliable Piston to go to in an iso situation, either facing up or posting up. He rarely turns it over and he usually gets at least a decent look. Monta Ellis gave the Bucks their first lead of the game with 1:06 left when he hit a jumper to put the Bucks up 96-94. The Pistons went to Prince on two straight possessions. He got inside and made a short jumper to tie it with 50 seconds left, then after a stop, he drew a foul and made the game-winning free throws with 10 seconds left.
Kyle Singler, SF 31 MIN | 2-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +5Even when he plays bad, Singler always does enough to justify staying on the court. Tonight, he picked up six rebounds, three steals and a block. He also doesn’t get enough credit for how well he moves without the basketball — in fact, he might be the team’s best cutter. But tonight, he was just overmatched with Monta Ellis. Ellis obviously had the quickness advantage offensively, but Singler couldn’t even take advantage of his size advantage when the Pistons had the ball. Ellis’ quick hands made it hard for Singler to get comfortable enough handling the ball to get good shots up.
Greg Monroe, C 29 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-3 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -1Monroe was solid as usual, other than his three turnovers. His activity on offense also helped get Larry Sanders — who has been playing really well lately — into foul trouble and make him a non-factor in the game. Monroe did get beat a couple of times by Drew Gooden in the third quarter, but other than that, he had a strong all-around game.
Brandon Knight, PG 35 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | -5Knight did two things well in this game — he made 40 percent of his 3-pointers and he played good defense on Brandon Jennings. He shot the ball poorly overall and had three assists with four turnovers though.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 22 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -3Not that anyone should expect great defense out of Villanueva, but he was one of several Pistons bigs who could do nothing with Ilyasova. Villanueva did make up for it some offensively, scoring 11 points. It was his fourth straight game scoring in double figures.
Austin Daye, PF 13 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +4Daye only played 13 minutes tonight, but he made the most of them, making both of his shots, scoring five points, grabbing three rebounds and blocking a shot. Both Daye and Villanueva emerging to be productive rotation members is probably the most surprising thing of the season so far, other than Drummond’s immediate readiness.
Andre Drummond, C 19 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3Drummond does what he always does at this point. He was impossible to keep off the glass, he protected the rim and he made a couple of jaw-dropping plays that only he and a couple others his size in the league are athletic enough to make.
Will Bynum, PG 24 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 8 PTS | +6Bynum’s scoring cooled off, as it was bound to do. The good — he didn’t look for his own shot as much and created shots for teammates, finishing with five assists. The bad — he also turned the ball over five times and got beat a couple of times defensively.
Kim English, SG 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -2English played! And he got a point and a rebound! He didn’t do enough in his six minutes to positively or negatively impact the game. But it’s Kim English! So he gets a C.
Lawrence FrankFrank had a good gameplan against the Bucks. Milwaukee is one of the better defensive teams in the league, all set up by their fantastic shot-blocking ability. The Pistons went right at Milwaukee’s bigs, particularly Sanders, and it resulted in Sanders playing just 20 minutes. With his point guards both struggling to take care of the ball, Frank also did a nice job adjusting and running the offense through Prince more to help steady things. The complaint is a familiar one — Drummond deserved more than 19 minutes based on his play — but enough went right in this game to overlook that. Frank’s in-game adjustments and gameplans seem to have become much better over the last week or so. Or maybe the players have just become better at executing what he wants to do. Either way, the coach should get credit for it.

16 Comments

  • Dec 30, 201211:39 pm
    by Talan

    Reply

    We’re playing great lately. I was really waiting for us to make mistakes and give the game away. It definitely seems like the frontcourt is carrying this team, we have very inconsistent guard play. Prince’s offseason statement of us needing a veteran point guard really seems less snotty the more the season goes on. A guy like Calderon would do wonders for this team. We are just too inconsistent. 

  • Dec 31, 20121:06 am
    by sloppy joe

    Reply

    Noticed they gave Bynum a bit of time with Prince Max and Monroe.  As expected, being away from the “B squad” who have the ability to spread the floor a bit (not to mention Drummond) hurt his production.  He looked much better with the bench on the floor.  Some of this can be chalked up to practicing with them, but I think it just goes to show that Knight is being handcuffed by being forced to play a majority of his minutes with our slow starters.

    • Dec 31, 20121:16 am
      by Mone

      Reply

      I agree. I think some of the second unit(especially Drummond) should start… Take out Maxielle and put in Drummond, and take out boring Prince and put in Daye to really help spread the floor.. I think Frank is scared of change though…

  • Dec 31, 20121:14 am
    by Mone

    Reply

    Frank almost lost the game by putting the starter back on the court. They blew a 9 point lead, and looked sloppy at the end. He should have allowed that second unit to finish out the game to build even more momentum. They starters have had their opportunities to finish in the past and always gave the game away.. They almost did again..

  • Dec 31, 20121:15 am
    by Jon

    Reply

    I bet BK would shoot close to 50% from the field if he could put 20 pounds on his upper body. he gets knocked around so much at the rim

  • Dec 31, 20122:35 am
    by Mrshourite

    Reply

    I have to say that Knight played a solid game tonight, but what really stood out to me (besides the critical turnover with just over a minute left), was that he played stellar defense on Jennings and he accepted the challenge of guarding Ellis on the last possession, stayed with him and contested his shot, Causing him to miss, which ultimately sealed the game. Now that’s what I like to see young Knight! Does anyone remember last year when Bk was a rookie the 1st time we played the Bucks Jennngs torched our young rookie, he did him bad if I’m not mistaken Knight had a doughnut and didn’t impact the stat sheet. But upon the next meeting within the same week Knight got some act right juice and took it straight to Jennings and got the better of the matchup. My point being is he showed the ability to learn and study his opponents and if he got lit up once buy them best believe it won’t happen the very next time. Like I said before I like him as a player on our team, but I maintain that we need a steadier PG to run the offense more efficiently. I’m not looking for a Cp3, or a DRose, but someone like a Lou Williams, Jeff Teague or Mike Conley would be nice. We all know that I have a preference for Calderon though.  Back on Knight, not (trying to bash him) but does anyone remember when we were struggling on the road and we were playing some pretty decent backcourts like Phx, Golden State, Boston, Houston, Denver, etc. I noticed that Knight held his own with the guards defensively he gave them all a hard time, and I think the only guard tandem that really got loose on us all season was Houston with Harden and Lin, and Golden State with Curry and Klay Thompson. I hope he does get the cerebral part of playing the pg position down cuz if and when he does that will add so much more to his game because he has the potential to be a valuable 2 way player. Once the game slows down for him just a little bit, he’ll be ok. Or maybe he should slow down to the game just a little bit, lol. He’ll figure it out. 

  • Dec 31, 20127:30 am
    by Raphael

    Reply

    I think the grades for Greg Monroe and Lawrence Frank were a bit generous.  Greg played solid but made turnovers during a crucial part of the game that could have lost it for them.  I would like to see the turnover issues of Greg and Brandon Knight to become a focal point for improvement.  Had they lost the game the blame would have been pointed directly at those plays.  I would  still give him a “B” grade wise because he played solid.

    Lawrence Frank should get a C for a grade.  He continues to refuse to play Drummond and Monroe together and plays Drummond to little.  He plays “ROOKIE” Singler 31 minutes despite him struggling while Drummond plays well and gets less minutes than he has been getting in prior games.  I don’t understand the thought process of allowing  Singler to go 2 for 11 and get 31 minutes while Daye goes 2 for 2 and get 13.  I’m a singler fan, but when he is not playing well he should not be in the game to the tune of 31 minutes. 

    It seems that on a Lawrence Frank team, playing well may not necessarily get you on the floor.  He seems to have a pre planned scheme that he rarily deviates from unless his hand his forced.  This second unit would be a jumbled scramble for playing time if they hadn’t of pulled the starters out of a large deficit against the nba champs. 

  • Dec 31, 20129:52 am
    by apa8ren9

    Reply

    Monroe and Knight have to get the turnovers under control.  We dont have a closer, ala Durant or Kobe but the Pistons have to be able to pull out these kinds of games. I dont expect us to win all of these types but we should have had at least 2-3 more wins.  We shoot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers, combined with Frank’s inablilty to coach on the fly.  We pretty much have to be the superior team in order to win these (example.  2nd Wash. game).  We wont get Frank out coaching anyone.
    I was thinking that maybe Drummond only knows the center position offensively and defensively.  So he cant really do anything on the court but that. I would hypothesize that Monroe doesnt know or cant digest both the 4 and 5 spots offensively and defensively which is contributing to the limited time that Monroe and Drummond are on the court together.  I remember Monroe complaining earlier in the season saying he was playing out of position or doing things he wasnt comfortable with.  Just a guess.

  • Dec 31, 201211:04 am
    by sebastian

    Reply

    After a two game winning streak, OUR Pistons are 11-22. I still say fire L. Frank, today, and hire Isiah as the new Head Coach.
    With Zeke, as the Head Coach, I guaransheed that B. Knight would become a better point guard.

  • Dec 31, 201211:05 am
    by picknroll

    Reply

    Patrick….I totally agree with your conclusion that we really don’t know what this team is after 40% of the season. Who is going to be in the rotation in 20 games out?  Which players should be part of our long term plans?  Which positions should we target in free agency?  Which position should we target in the draft? I love your scoring of each player and coach after each game.  Even while watching the games I’m thinking about their performance and what score they should receive.  I would score Monroe a bit lower and I am concerned about his play this season.  I just don’t see consistent improvement and perhaps some back sliding.  Also, regarding Frank, I thought AD should have been in the game for the last Milwaukee play.  That might be nit-picky, but, you need your best defensive people on the floor.  Also, I would rather see plays run for our younger guys when the game is on the line as they need experience in those situations.  Running iso’s for Tay does nothing for our long term development!  That’s my 2 or 1 cents worth!!  Keep up the good work, Patrick & Dan!!  Happy New Year to all!!

  • Dec 31, 201212:02 pm
    by Pistons moribund

    Reply

    The main difference btwn the first and second group is the spacing.  The second group is a bit more balanced. Cv and Daye can either screen and roll to the basket or float to the three point line drawing the defender so that Will has a lot more options with the advantage of more space.  Bk is at a big disadvantage play with an unathletic big man that he has to pass every time down the court bc technically he is the one who is suppose to initiate the offense.  How can someoneplay thr point is they have to give upthe ball evertime downthe court.  Also, having Max float around at 15 to 20 ft just adds one more defender in the lane. There is no one in the first unit that can Bks life easier when he is going into the lane when the defense collapses on him. Truth is, frank is not a point guard and there is no one on the team that can teach Bk the position. Patrick, how do you expect Bk to learn the most difficult position when there is No One to mentor him?  Even Billups didnt come through until he got help from Lb. The team manager is not going to show you how to play point.

    • Dec 31, 201212:39 pm
      by rick

      Reply

      Think you are giving Larry Brown a bit too much credit as far as Billups is concerned. Great coach but dont really believe Billups made the turn in his carreer under him. I would say watching and backing up Terrel Brandon in Minnesota heled tremendously as well as playing with KG and uder Flip Saunders. I would give more credit to Carlisle because he instilled a defensive mentality into Billups and basically Brown got a ready made product.

      Most on this blog thought Tayshaun was talking outta turn in the offseason when he mentioned picking up a backup point guard and now everyone sees the results. My issues with complainers is what inside info does any of them have when it comes to the team and their needs. Baiscally everyone was thinking Prince was a malcontent but what he really did was observe and obvious need on a young and up and coming team. Its the reason why most on here keep crying about Knight and everyone else hindering his progress. It has nothing to do with them other than they are in their right position and he is playing out of position.  The guy is not cerebral enough to run an offense. He needs to be under the wing of a veteran. What bewilders me the most on here is that people forget guys like Prince know how to play the game but then again what does he know,right? 

    • Dec 31, 20122:33 pm
      by Crispus

      Reply

      It’s true the backup PG has a lot more toys to play with. Having not one but two stretch 4′s who can shoot lights out 3′s has gotta be a great feeling if you are Stuckey or Bynum. It seems like Monroe has taken over the IsolayShaun duties and is executing his offensive moves in Slow-MonroeTion. I feel bad for Knight because Singler is his only cutter and the pick and roll seems broken and there’s no Drummond for him to throw alley-oops to.

      Frank might be wise to consider juggling the lineup and starting Charlie V or Daye and making sure they know they need to move a lot without the ball. Promoting Drummond could help too, as his pick and roll is coming along and he will make the other teams’ bigs hesitant to double. With the bench playing so well, now would be a good time to juggle things, as it won’t feel like a significant slight to anyone changing places in the rotation. 

  • Dec 31, 201212:44 pm
    by Jocko

    Reply

    Grade was way too harsh for Bynum.  The bench unit with him leading it shot an eFG of .696 last night and as a unit were in the + territory.  In 10 minutes less playing time than Knight, WB had 2 more assists and led the team.  He shot 4-9 from the field and set Drummond and others up with some really easy shots.  I’d give him a B-.  

    • Dec 31, 20124:05 pm
      by Georgio

      Reply

      Don’t forget those FIVE turnovers, that right there is enough to lower his grade, and his shot selection was rather poor also.
       

  • Dec 31, 20122:58 pm
    by Mone

    Reply

    If you think about it, the second unit would outright outplay the first unit.. Charlie V would light up Maxielle, Drummond will out rebound and defend Monroe, and Stuckey would out right ball on singler, Daye would make Tay pay for helping on the defense, and Bynum and Knight  would be pretty close…. It’s something wrong with the starting line up, if the second unit is flat out  better…

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