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Archive → February, 2013

Pistons hit the road and play at Indiana

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (22-34) at Indiana Pacers (33-21)
  • Date: February 22, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After thrashing the New York Knicks by 34 points on Wednesday night, the Indiana Pacers earned a little bit of national attention for their performance. It’s well deserved, but actually a bit late.

The Pacers have the third best record in the Eastern Conference and are breathing down the Knickerbockers’ neck for the second seed in the east despite Danny Granger’s absence from the lineup this season.

Frank Vogel’s unit has won six-of-eight games in the month of February, and their lone two defeats came in overtime against a surging Brooklyn Nets team that has now won four games in a row and a Toronto Raptors squad that has won six-of-nine contests since acquiring Rudy Gay.

Indiana’s recent stretch of good basketball coincides with an increase in offensive production that has them looking like somewhat of a juggernaut. In their eight games this month, they are scoring 108.7 points per 100 possessions — if we remove the blowout victory over the Knicks, they still produce 106.8 points per 100 possession — per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, which would be the third best mark in the Association.

It’s not a case of the Pacers defeating a bunch of matadors either. In this recent stretch, they’ve produced impressive showings against the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks; all of which are in the top 12 of defensive efficiency rankings this season.

Part of the reason Indy has thrived offensively as of late is due to Paul George’s emergence as a playmaker and David West’s willingness to capitalize off the newfound opportunities presented by his teammate.

The Pacers’ strength is their frontcourt and thus opponents and fans expect them to relentlessly pound the ball on the interior and force double teams and what have you.

Vogel does a good job of creating some misdirection plays where it looks as though the ball is supposed to go inside on the block, but in actuality he’s running a player off a screen on the weak side to catch and shoot or catch and drive.

In many instances, that player can be Paul George or George Hill, both of which are more than competent at attacking the paint off the dribble.

Make no mistake though, Indiana will do their damage on the interior.

On Jan. 30, the Pacers used Paul George on the interior to set some terrific screens for both David West and Roy Hibbert against the Detroit Pistons and it gave them fits.

Both of Indiana’s starting big men had opportunities to catch the ball on the move going to the basket, as a result of George’s screen setting, but Detroit players eventually got into trouble with their defensive assignments and double-teamed one player off the ball while the Pacers’ small forward broke free for an uncontested shot or dive to the basket.

It’s worth noting that Roy Hibbert and company own the best defense in the league. Believe it or not though, Greg Monroe shredded it the last time these two teams played.

Indeed, the Georgetown product was able to consistently get to his left hand against Hibbert to drive the ball to the hole, and he also victimized him on the low block with reverse pivots and pump fakes on his way to 18 points.

Indiana took control of the contest by simply ignoring weak side shooters and cutters to load up on the ball side. Vogel essentially came to the conclusion that the Pistons didn’t have the passers required to find the open players close to the basket on the weak side of the court and he was right. But that was before Jose Calderon joined the team.

In addition, Indy dared Detroit to beat them from deep by giving the Pistons players some open shots on the weak side of the floor, and Lawrence Frank’s group couldn’t make them pay as evidenced by their 3-for-18 shooting from 3-point range. Again, pre-Calderon.

Make no mistake though, the Pacers can be defeated.

Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum showed that Indiana has trouble containing penetration off the dribble from quick guards early in defensive possessions and that’s an area where Detroit will have to succeed to pull out this contest.

Also, sharing the basketball and cutting to the hoop will be important against a tough defense that will send Roy Hibbert no higher than the free throw line in pick-and-roll defense. If ball handlers can drive at the Pacers’ center and find cutters heading to the basket, it will give them an easy look at the rim with Hibbert out of the picture.

Read about the Pacers

8 points, 9 seconds.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

Brandon Knight out vs. Pacers tonight

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Brandon Knight will not play tonight per @PistonsPR

I’m glad the Pistons are exercising caution with Knight after allowing him to return too quickly against the Bobcats.

Pistons, after trade deadline passes, head toward The Summer of Truth

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

Calderon arrived too late to make a difference this year – the Pistons will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season, their longest post-season drought in 30 years – but his expiring contract might mean a bigger difference in the seasons to come. By standing pat Thursday, the Pistons confirmed their arc.

They’re heading into this summer – the Summer of Truth – with everything to prove and the assets to make nearly anything happen.

The Pistons committed themselves to this summer when they sent a first-round pick to the Charlotte Bobcats just to rid themselves of Ben Gordon’s contract a year earlier. They upped the ante by dumping Prince’s long-term contract, and they called any raises by silently letting the trade deadline pass.

Joe Dumars’ critics still point to his flubbed rebuild in the summer of 2009, and his supporters blame Karen Davidson’s sale of the team for interfering with Dumars’ plan. The truth lies somewhere between with Dumars’ reputation hanging in the balance.

He’ll have a tremendous chance to prove himself during the Summer of Truth.

The Pistons will have a lottery pick it can use on a player like Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke or Otto Porter. They’ll have cap space to sign someone like O.J. Mayo, Josh Smith and/or J.J. Redick or trade for highly paid veterans like Danny Granger, Luol Deng and/or Eric Gordon.

It’s a lot to navigate, and it must happen this summer.

The diminishing protection on the pick owed to the Bobcats (top-eight in 2014, top-one in 2015 and unprotected in 2016) demands the Pistons don’t prolong their rebuild. The longer the Pistons remain bad, the greater the risk they send a valuable draft pick to Charlotte.

The Freep editors lowercased the ‘T,’ but make no mistake it’s “The Summer of Truth.”

Lawrence Frank says Jason Maxiell starts because he keys defense, but Andre Drummond could better fill role

Why does Jason Maxiell start? The answer has become so difficult to fathom, Lawrence Frank is facing the question even while Andre Drummond is out injured. Frank, via David Mayo of MLive:

"If you’re going to judge Max on his offensive numbers, he’s not going to play a lot," Frank said. "But for us, if you look at our defensive efficiency in the first quarter, it’s sixth-best in the league. So to me, his grit, grime and physical toughness, paired with Greg, is a good fit defensively."

The Pistons have actually improved to fifth in the NBA in first-quarter defensive efficiency, according to NBA.com/stats. If you’re wondering, the Pistons’ defense ranks 11th in the third quarter and 19th overall.

How much credit does Maxiell deserve for the Pistons’ impressive first-quarter defense? Probably a decent amount.

Maxiell plays 9.3 minutes per first quarter, and the Pistons allow fewer first-quarter points per 100 possession with him on the court (97.0) than off (100.4).

As far as defending well with Greg Monroe, the Pistons have a lower defensive rating when Maxiell and Monroe play together (102.4) than overall (103.8).

So, Frank is correct in those regards. But it’s not about just Maxiell.

The Pistons’ first-quarter defensive rating with Andre Drummond (94.3) is better than with Maxiell (97.0), and a Drummond-Monroe combo (100.0) defends better than Maxiell-Monroe (102.4).

As we’ve argued for a long time now, it doesn’t matter much how well Maxiell plays. Even raw and still learning, Drummond is already better.

Neither Charlie Villanueva nor Jonas Jerebko can really challenge Maxiell’s defensive bona fides in the first quarter and with Monroe, but that’s not a huge concern. Until Drummond returns, I don’t care who starts at power forward.

But – using the criteria Frank said he considers important – Drummond deserves to start once his back heals.

Lawrence Frank reveals Austin Daye’s secret defensive weapon: pulling shorts

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Now that he no longer coaches Austin Daye , Frank was willing to unveil one of Daye’s tricks of the trade while defending the post before the Pistons took on the Grizzlies at the Palace.

“Defensively, he has one unique trick he likes to use,” Frank said laughing. “He loves to pull the chair and pull your shorts also. I am giving away his trade secrets.”

That would explain why Austin Daye – 6-foot-11 and 200 pounds soaking wet – grades out as a good post-up defender by Synergy.

Pistons like Cal shooting guard Allen Crabbe

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

In the first draft tidbit of the year, the Pistons like Cal shooting guard Allen Crabbe.

Crabbe ranks No. 30 on Chad Ford’s draft board. Ford:

Crabbe, a 6-6 junior, has been lighting up the Pac-12 since his freshman year, but this season is the first time NBA scouts have started to seriously consider him as a potential pro. Blessed with unlimited range and a nose for scoring the basketball, Crabbe has been huge for Cal this season, averaging 19.8 points per game.

If Crabbe were a better athlete or a more versatile scorer, he’d be a lock for the lottery. However, his shooting ability and fearlessness when it comes to scoring are enough to get him a serious look in the first round.

Will Bynum on technical foul: ‘I want my $2,000 in my pocket’

Will Bynum received a technical foul against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, and he reacted exactly how you’d expect – with proud defiance and a focus on his money. Bynum, via Dave Pemberton of Pistons’ Point:

"All I said was, ‘He hit my hand,’ " Bynum said. "That’s all I said. I don’t even say nothing. I want my $2,000 in my pocket. I need every dime I can get man. I’ve never got a technical, I don’t think. It’s different man."

Never change, Will. Never change.

J.J. Hickson, Spurs, Thunder and the Pistons’ deadline trades that weren’t

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Portland offered forward J.J. Hickson for Jason Maxiell, but Portland wanted a first-round pick in return, a sure deal-breaker. The San Antonio Spurs also inquired about Maxiell, while the Oklahoma City Thunder were interested in Will Bynum.

It’s impossible to evaluate the offers – if any – the Spurs and and Thunder made without knowing specifics, but the Pistons obviously did well to reject the Trail Blazers’ offer.

Charlie Villanueva says he’ll exercise $8.58 million player option

Charlie Villanueva holds an $8,580,00 player option for next season. Charlie Villanueva is also not a moron.

Those two facts are related. Villanueva, via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

“It’s obvious what I’m going to do,” Villanueva told the Free Press before the Pistons topped the Bobcats on Tuesday night. “Would you let that money go?”

Good for Villanueva. It’s not his fault Joe Dumars gave him such a lucrative contract. Villanueva should get every dollar he can from the Pistons.

Now, the ball is in the Pistons’ court. They still have the amnesty at their disposal, a potentially expensive option, but one that probably puts the Pistons in best position to build a winning team.

So about Ben Wallace coming back…

The Pistons have one open roster spot, and now, the possibility of filling it via trade has closed.

Is it Ben Wallace time?

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tackled the question a week ago:

I wouldn’t expect the Pistons to do anything with their available roster spot until after the Feb. 21 trade deadline, Tim, just in case an attractive deal comes along that involves taking back an extra player, just as the deal that allowed them to get Jose Calderon required trading away two players. If we get to Feb. 22 and the Pistons are still under the 15-man roster limit, I’d say that has a chance to be a consideration.

So you’re saying there’s a chance.