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Archive → March, 2013

Andre Drummond dominates glass, banged up Pistons hang tough in loss to Bulls

Detroit Pistons 94 Final

Recap | Box Score

95 Chicago Bulls
Greg Monroe, C 32 MIN | 7-12 FG | 4-6 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +8Monroe had a productive all-around game and was pretty sound defensively. It helped that Joakim Noah was out, but Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson routinely brutalize the Pistons’ frontcourt and both were quiet tonight.
Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-3 FT | 14 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +11When Drummond is on the court, the Pistons are at least competitive with the middle-tier teams in the league. Tonight, they built leads every time Drummond was in the game, including into double figures in the first half. When Drummond left the game, those leads evaporated quickly. Drummond’s had better statistical performances in his young career, and he did pick up three fairly quickly first half fouls that caused an early exit, but he was a game-changer for all 23 of his minutes. I do have to mark him down slightly for this though. Ouch.
Jose Calderon, PG 34 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | 0Calderon didn’t rack up a large number of assists (Drummond cost him one by botching a perfect lob that should’ve been a dunk, although Drummond did get his own rebound and convert), but he ran Detroit’s offense perfectly. Calderon does a lot of things well offensively, but I love watching him watch for the right moment to hit players coming off of curls to quickly catch and launch. He does it perfectly nearly every time.
Brandon Knight, PG 37 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | +6Credit where it’s due for Knight — after re-injuring his ankle and breaking his nose in Friday’s game, he came back two days later and played 37 minutes. Unfortunately, they were pretty unproductive minutes.
Kyle Singler, SG 27 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -2Singler, once again, was remarkably average. He hit open shots, he helped on the glass and he was overmatched trying to guard Chicago’s quicker wings. As has been written relentlessly this season, Singler was a great find for the Pistons in the second round who will be a valuable rotation player once he’s playing in the right role in that rotation. Starting and playing big minutes at the two or three isn’t the right role at this point, but he’s doing an admirable job competing at that spot.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 18 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -11After Jerebko was one of very few bright spots on Friday, it was disappointing to not see him get more minutes tonight. But I’ve long ago given up on trying to figure out how minutes are distributed/justified on this team.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 24 MIN | 4-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -10It was nice to see Villanueva playing aggressively and looking to drive when Chicago was closing hard on him when he caught at the 3-point line. His shots were falling and he had a few tough misses on floaters that were good looks that he’d normally hit.
Khris Middleton, SF 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1Middleton played a few forgettable minutes and is still struggling to find the confidence and aggressiveness he had for a handful of games a few weeks ago.
Rodney Stuckey, PG 29 MIN | 10-19 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | -8And the Stuckey madness continues. Before the comments start harping on this — yes, Stuckey had the ball in his hands more tonight. But no, he was not exclusively used in a scoring point guard type role. He actually was finding success as an off-the-ball wing playing with Calderon, something his defenders firmly say is all Lawrence Franks’ fault for asking him to do in the first place. Stuckey can be successful working off of screens, not dribbling the air out of the ball and working at times as a catch and shoot player in the mid-range. He just doesn’t do it all the time, which makes the times that he plays has well and as tough (he took a shot to the head that had him blinking an eye most of the game) as he did tonight all the more frustrating.
Kim English, SG 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | 0Twelve minutes is decent burn for English, but he looked a little tentative. He did manage to help out on the glass, but didn’t attempt a three. I’d still love to see him flash a little acumen for that corner three by the end of the season.
Lawrence FrankI’m not sure how much Frank planned to play Drummond, but the fact that he couldn’t use him more in the first half was Drummond’s fault for getting into foul trouble, not Frank’s, so I’m willing to give a pass for that. I think the Pistons could’ve used Jerebko more and I thought 37 minutes were way too many for Knight considering both his health and the fact that he wasn’t playing well.

Road game in Chicago

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (24-49) at Chicago Bulls (39-32)
  • Date: March 31, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Yesterday, the Chicago Bulls won a tough grind it out game against the Dallas Mavericks. They played with composure and grit.

Their defense puts the clamps on the Mavericks and forced them into some tough shots. That’s how Thibodeau’s team was able to win the game for 47 minutes and 57 seconds. A quick glance at the game’s box score though reveals a completely different result.

The Mavericks were actually victorious by two points. Confused? Well you should be, because that’s exactly how Bulls fans and players felt after yesterday’s game.

With 4:07 left on the clock last night, Chicago led 97-85 on the road.

The Mavs still had time left for a run but the odds seemed incredibly slim. With two minutes left on the game clock, Rick Carlise’s group was now facing an eight-point deficit with a score of 97-89.

And then, the Bulls completely self-destructed down the stretch.

They tried running two-man game action on one side of the floor, which was smart but poorly executed. Luol Deng got a switch against Mike James and forced up a low percentage shot.

Nate Robinson recklessly drove to the hoop a few times and either forced up a bad shot or coughed up the ball.

Carlisle ordered a trap on Robinson every time he crossed half-court, and it sped up the point guard’s decision-making process. The end result was a rushed offense.

The Bulls missed a multitude of looks late and also only converted one-of-three free throws in the last two minutes with the game hanging in the balance.

Dallas on the other hand got Dirk Nowitzki — only their best player, no big deal — three open shots from 3-point range in the final 60 seconds of play. He drilled two of them.

The last one came with 2.9 seconds left and gave the Mavericks a 100-98 lead. His final shot gave the Mavericks the win as well as an opportunity at a postseason berth.

This might have been the weirdest game of the season for the Bulls. The same team that ended the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak fell at the hands of a Mavs team in a situation where they normally excel.

Chicago didn’t just stop scoring against Dallas, they also gave up a fair amount of points.

In order to highlight just how uncharacteristic of the Bulls the late game collapse against the Mavericks was, consider this nugget: with the scoring margin within five points or less in the last five minutes of the game, Chicago has the 10th best offense and defense in the league per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.

They have wing stoppers in Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler, coupled with an aggressive defense that goes after players.

Offensively, Deng is a tough matchup out on the perimeter and Carlos Boozer is a decent midrange shooter. Add the wildcard that is Nate Robinson, and that makes for an unpredictable offense.

But that’s just it; the Bulls game plan seemed scripted last night and that hurt them.

Matt McHale of Bulls by the Horns summed it up best:

Dallas closed out the game on a 15-1 run as Chicago’s offense — which had been pretty darn good all game long — went into a coma.

This served as remainder that anything can happen on any given night.

The Detroit Pistons are probably hoping to cash in some of that magic if you will. An argument could be made that Dallas got lucky, but teams create their own luck.

And tonight, the onus rests on the Pistons to do the exact same thing.

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

Piston of the Week: Greg Monroe

Piston of the Week (3/25/2013 – 3/31/2013): Greg Monroe

11 points, 12.5 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block per game, while shooting 33 percent from the field.

It’s funny that, in a week in with a holiday featuring eggs, the Pistons would go out and lay two more eggs in a season filled with them.

Actually, it’s not funny because that’s been the story of this team for the last two months — play well early, lay an egg in the third quarter — and that was the case in both losses this week. Minnesota and Toronto combined to outscore the Pistons 76-31 in the third quarter, which, to put it bluntly, is just horrible.

There’s no one who’s really been great, either. This award has sort of become one that someone has to win. With that in mind, it does take something to still be productive while the walls are constantly crumbling around you, and the one guy who’s been able to do that this year is Greg Monroe.

He’s got his faults, and when things are going bad, those may be pointed out more, but he’s still consistently doing what he has to — it’s just there’s not really anyone else performing at a remotely consistent level.

It wasn’t a great week for Monroe — he shot just 8-for-24 from the field — but he still proved to be productive, albeit inefficient, on the offensive end. We’ve seen how bad this team can be without Andre Drummond or without Brandon Knight, but if you want to see bad, imagine this team without Monroe.

It’s been said here many times, there are some things that he does need to work on this summer, but the things he does do — score, create some offense for others, be a plus-rebounder — are still better than any alternative.

There are only nine games left in this nightmare of a season. Potentially, only two of those games are winnable (which I’m sure everyone guiltily loves), but that leaves nine games to see what the Monroe-Drummond duo looks like, and to see if Jose Calderon likes what he sees enough to return to Detroit this summer.

There may not be a lot of hope for the final stretch, but there’s a lot to play for, but a lot of that starts with Monroe playing well the rest of the way.

Past Winners

Andre Drummond returns, Brandon Knight re-injured ankle and breaks nose, Pistons lose big in front of another home crowd

Toronto Raptors 99 FinalRecap | Box Score 82 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, C 30 MIN | 3-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 13 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -16Monroe was solid on the glass and decent in the passing game, but he struggled with his shot and … well … let’s just not talk about the interior defense on Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas tonight.
Andre Drummond, C 19 MIN | 8-10 FG | 1-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -7Drummond’s defense wasn’t great, either, but he scored around the basket, he blocked shots, he rebounded and he didn’t look all that rusty considering he’s missed the last 22 games.
Jose Calderon, PG 31 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -16Calderon wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him in other games, but for once, I can compliment his defense. He helped hold Kyle Lowry to a quiet game.
Brandon Knight, PG 26 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -24The bad news: Knight appeared to re-injure the ankle that caused him to miss games earlier this month. He also broke his nose. The good news: our grades tool now has the option for us to give ‘incompletes’ for players who are forced to leave due to injury. The bad news: Knight played a lot too poorly for too long in this game for me to to consider using the incomplete for the first time. Hopefully the Pistons didn’t rush Knight back too soon and hopefully his injury is not serious.
Kyle Singler, SG 33 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -15Same story with Singler — he was overmatched defensively against Toronto’s quick wings, but he hit open jumpers, rebounded and made enough hustle plays to make him among the better players on the court for the Pistons on a night when most of his teammates struggled.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 28 MIN | 9-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -6Other than Drummond’s return, Jerebko was the lone bright spot for the Pistons. He was active offensively, moved without the ball well and, if he can (finally) add a consistent 3-point shot in the offseason, he’ll head into next season as a reliable rotation player again.
Jason Maxiell, PF 13 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -11Maxiell’s role was finally reduced, and if this had happened earlier in the season, perhaps Maxiell’s production wouldn’t have fallen off a cliff. All parties would’ve been better off with Maxiell in a smaller role much sooner than the last week of March.
Khris Middleton, SF 8 MIN | 0-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +10Middleton didn’t make a shot and continues his slump since he had a brief stretch where he looked like he was ready to carve out a backup role down the stretch.
Viacheslav Kravtsov, C 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +6Kravtsov played a few cursory minutes and was his usual — big and awkward, but seemingly trying really hard.
Rodney Stuckey, PG 25 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -10An all-too-familiar scene this season — Stuckey playing significant minutes while barely making any kind of positive contribution to the game.
Kim English, SG 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +4English played a decent amount of minutes and shot 2-for-5 from three. On this night, that’s enough to make him one of the top players the Pistons put on the court.
Lawrence Frank

Frank immediately starting Drummond in his return from injury is enough to get him a (barely) passing grade on a night when his team looked awful in just about every way.

Toronto comes to the Palace

Essentials

  • Teams: Toronto Raptors (26-45) at Detroit Pistons (24-48)
  • Date: March 29, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After getting routed at home by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Detroit Pistons will be attempting to bounce back tonight when they host the Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors have lost five games in a row. In addition, they’ve had back-to-back losses by double digits entering tonight’s contest in Detroit.

Much like Detroit, Toronto’s most recent contest was a blowout defeat at home.

The Raptors played against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night and took a 10-point lead at halftime on the strength of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan’s play.

Both players made a living inside the paint by using curl screens and drives. They got a multitude of looks right at the rim but then fell apart in the second half because of the Hawks’ defensive adjustments.

Atlanta’s offense came alive in the final two quarters and nailed open shot after open shot against a seemingly helpless Raptors defense.

Dwane Casey’s unit was essentially ATL stomped.

Reviewing the game film from the Raptors’ sound beating should reveal a couple of things that should favor Detroit.

Amir Johnson is quite possibly Toronto’s best interior defender and he left the game early in the third quarter due to a left leg contusion. This gave Jonas Valanciunias an opportunity at anchoring the paint for the Raptors both offensively and defensively.

The rookie big man fought valiantly for post position and got himself some terrific looks at the basket.

On the other side of the ball, he played good interior defense against Al Horford and made him work for position. Mind you, this is a matchup that unquestionably favors the Pistons.

It’s not Valanciunas is easily moved on the block defensively, but rather that his lack of NBA experience affords him no leverage whatsoever with officials. He often gets mauled on the interior without repercussion.

Once his assignment catches the ball in the post, whatever contact he initiates usually results in foul calls. Thus, Detroit’s interior players should be presented with decent scoring opportunities against the rookie.

Also, the Hawks took away the curls and drives by having Jeff Teague play off Kyle Lowry.

Indeed, Teague’s responsibility in the second half was to ignore Lowry whenever he passed the ball and sit on players coming off screens. The Raptors lack of perimeter shooting and offensive sophistication hurt them on this front.

They never truly adjusted.

Lawrence Frank’s big men obviously are nowhere near as mobile and active as the Hawks’ frontcourt. Thus, the Pistons’ coaching staff probably won’t have the possibility of replicating the exact same game plan as Atlanta.

However, borrowing a few concepts from Larry Drew can’t hurt.

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic.

Pistons likely to receive No. 5, No. 6 or No. 7 pick in NBA Draft

I consider these NBA lottery odds the most accurate, because they account for not only how likely each seed in the lottery is to receive each pick, but how likely each team is to to finish as each seed. The latter is a bit more difficult to estimate, but huge thanks to Kevin Pelton for providing his computerized projections.

You can view the odds of other teams by checking them in the sidebar of the viz.

Detroit Pistons’ lottery odds

No. 1 pick: 9.0 percent

No. 2 pick: 9.7 percent

No. 3 pick: 10.5 percent

No. 4 pick: 4.8 percent

No. 5 pick: 19.9 percent

No. 6 pick: 23.4 percent

No. 7 pick: 13.6 percent

No. 8 pick: 5.4 percent

No. 9 pick: 2.6 percent

No. 10 pick: 1.0 percent

(through March 27)

It’s that time of year again – who should the Pistons draft?

Draft discussions focused on plenty of names have occurred in the comments here for months. In my column for the Detroit Free Press today, I wrote about the only three names I’m particularly excited about from a Pistons perspective headed into the draft — Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter Jr. Here’s my reasoning for Oladipo, my favorite of the three players:

The Pistons have been desperate to re-establish a defensive identity ever since Joe Dumars momentarily betrayed his championship roots by focusing on offensive-minded players in the 2009 offseason. With Drummond protecting the rim, the Pistons have a start. Adding Oladipo, already a lockdown perimeter defender capable of dominating both with his on-ball defense and with his other-worldly knack for finding himself in passing lanes, to a perimeter defense that also features Knight, and underrated and improving defensive player, the Pistons would suddenly have the look of a competent defensive unit next season. With Monroe and, if he’s re-signed, Jose Calderon, in the lineup, the Pistons would still have a couple of sieves on the court, but the awareness of the others would certainly help the team’s less capable defenders.

Feel free to continue making cases for your favorite players below. Or your least favorite players (and after last night, I would assume that Cody Zeller moved to ‘least favorite’ on a lot of lists). And don’t be like the guy who tweeted me that the Pistons should take Aaron Craft. In the lottery. I don’t think he was joking either.

Oh hey, Andre Drummond is starting tonight

Andre Drummond is returning from injury for the Pistons game tonight against the Toronto Raptors, and the long national nightmare of Jason Maxiell in the starting lineup is over, per Dave Mayo of MLive:

Head coach Lawrence Frank said today that he planned to insert Drummond into the starting lineup the same week as the Feb. 3 injury, and had told the player as much, before those plans were delayed.

Drummond will start at center, with Greg Monroe at power forward.  Jason Maxiell goes to the bench.

I like to think Frank is putting Drummond in the starting lineup just to make Dan Feldman wrong. So to recap: Maxiell not a starter, Feldman wrong, America wins.

Pistons miss fourth straight post-season, their longest playoff drought in 30 years

With the Milwaukee Bucks’ win over the Los Angeles Lakers tonight, the Pistons have been officially eliminated from the playoff race. That makes four straight seasons without reaching the post-season, Detroit’s longest drought since missing the playoffs each season between 1977-78 and 1982-83.

Few expected the Pistons to make the playoffs this year, though most of us hoped they’d at least contend. Unfortunately, a lack of progression from young players, poor coaching, too few minutes for Andre Drummond, a trade that unbalanced the roster and other factors have given the Pistons an even worse winning percentage than either of the previous two seasons.

The good news is the Pistons will keep their first-round draft pick rather than sending it to the Charlotte Bobcats, but the stakes are higher next season, when it’s just top-eight protected.

Missing the playoffs this season will probably help the Pistons in the long run. Next season, that probably won’t be the case.

Andre Drummond will play Friday, says beat-writer consensus

David Mayo of MLive:

The Detroit Pistons still have not updated Andre Drummond’s formal status but all the signs and unspoken code seems to point to the rookie center returning Friday against the Toronto Raptors.

Drummond said he has "been ready for three weeks" and teammate Greg Monroe said the two practiced together extensively today and that his 19-year-old teammate appears back to previous form.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

But signs point to a Drummond return. He has been a full participant in practices for nearly two weeks and while he is fully healed, they want to make sure his conditioning is right so he doesn’t suffer another injury.

Don’t be surprised if he starts alongside Greg Monroe, who would move to power forward, although his minutes will gradually increase through the rest of the season.

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Lawrence Frank wouldn’t commit to Andre Drummond being in uniform and available to play when Toronto comes to The Palace on Friday, but he certainly circled close to such an admission.

“In terms of tomorrow, I’ll give you that answer tomorrow,” Frank said after a Thursday practice he described as one with “good spirit, good energy, good effort” – perhaps, in some measure, because Drummond was again a full participant and spent a good chunk of it playing alongside Greg Monroe.

“We may want to create a competitive situation where we may not want to tell Toronto exactly what we’re doing,” Frank grinned. “That may be a part of it, too.”

We’ve been down this road once before, but unlike Vincent Goodwill’s speculation about Tuesday, the likelihood of Drummond playing Friday has more widespread support.

Also, Ellis and Goodwill must be getting the idea Drummond will start his first game back from somewhere, but I’d be shocked if it happens. Regular starters often come off the bench in their first game after returning from injury. Reserves rarely start in that situation.

Lawrence Frank, via Mayo:

"When Andre does come back, it will be a build-up of the minutes," Frank said.  "When you’re out the amount of time he’s been out, it’s going to take a while to get your legs back. … So we’ll build it up and read it, and just kind of take it game by game and see where he’s at."

That doesn’t sound like someone who will start immediately, but we’ll see Friday.