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Archive → November, 2013

Maurice Cheeks: Brandon Jennings hasn’t learned how to play point guard

Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press:

Cheeks knew where everyone on the floor was supposed to be — or supposed to be going. When they weren’t, he told them. Jennings is trying to learn that now, after a life of seeking out space to shoot.

“It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that if that if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career,” Cheeks said. “I don’t think it’s just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a little of that.”

“It’s very important to figure out where a (teammate) should be and direct him where to go,” Cheeks said. “It’s not an overnight thing where you learn how to play with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith.”

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Detroit dominates the paint, LA dominates the arc, Refs prove to be the tiebreaker as Lakers sweep Pistons

Los Angeles Lakers 106 FinalRecap | Box Score 102 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 35 MIN | 9-15 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -3Monroe ran the floor well, kept at the boards (although many ended up in the hands of his teammates), and played stout D as long as he was just standing his ground. Also, he got the Pistons’ first bucket from outside the paint.The Lakers couldn’t back Monroe down, but they could go around him. Cheeks needs to figure out how to optimize that strength/weakness combo.
Josh Smith, SF 44 MIN | 4-16 FG | 0-4 FT | 19 REB | 8 AST | 5 STL | 2 BLK | 5 TO | 8 PTS | -2Smith was a beast everywhere. He played exactly the kind of manic intensity game you hope to see from him every night. Unfortunately, he couldn’t hit a shot if his life depended on it. As was the case with Monroe, Detroit needed Smith to hit his free throws.
Andre Drummond, C 16 MIN | 5-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +9Drummond piled up stats at an obscene rate while on the floor. Unfortunately, he was committing too many fouls and getting whistled for too many that he didn’t commit. Drummond also hit 3 straight free throws after failing to make consecutive ones so far in any other game.Cheeks should know he probably won’t play Drummond down the stretch for fear of Hack-A-Dre. Why on earth does he pull him out of the game with 4 fouls in the 3rd quarter?
Brandon Jennings, PG 41 MIN | 8-17 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | -2Jennings put up good counting stats yet again including a gorgeous fast break oop to Pope. And he carried the Pistons down the stretch. Unfortunately, if Jennings is the guy carrying you, it’s tough to win. Then Jennings missed two huge free throws with a chance to tie up the game. He needs to hit those, but in a game when he made as many shots from outside the paint as the rest of Detroit combined (3), the blame for letting a big lead slip away really belongs elsewhere.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 15 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +6Pope hustled, made athletic layups, and looked decent out there. But the Pistons got torched by Johnson and Williams from beyond the arc. Pope should have been the one stopping them, or at least Johnson.A commenter referred to Pope as “one of the better shooters in the draft”. I had to conclude he hasn’t watched much Pistons’ ball this year.
Josh Harrellson, PF 12 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +3Harrellson was active on offense and useless on defense. He deserved his limited minutes in this game. Also, what was he doing inside? The Pistons desperately needed shooting, more in this game than any other, and he is one of the best options to provide it.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 4 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -2Villanueva tapped a rebound away from Jennings into Sacre’s hands. He got lucky that Sacre bobbled it out of bounds, but stealing boards from teammates is a pet peeve of mine. I lambasted Siva for it a few games ago and Villanueva earned the same.
Kyle Singler, SF 33 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -17Singler played good help defense inside, but the Pistons desperately needed someone to step up and stop the 3 point barrage. After Pope, Singler was the best candidate. He gets the plus on his D though for hitting the Pistons’ only 3.
Peyton Siva, PG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -2Siva played good defense (Farmar was 1-4 with Siva in) and mostly avoided sloppiness. One of his TOs was just a terrible call. Both of his feet were clearly in.
Rodney Stuckey, SG 33 MIN | 8-17 FG | 6-9 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | -10Stuckey bulled his way inside time and again, hitting a high percentage of his shots. Toward the end, though, he settled for jumpers. I would blame him for that much more if the refs hadn’t been complete idiots. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone besides LeBron and Howard absorb that much contact without getting the whistle.To wit, on one drive, he had two different Lakers hit him in the face without getting a call. On another drive, Wesley Johnson held his forearm down as he tried to shoot and again, no call.
Maurice Cheeks
Cheeks was useless. Most notably, his asinine decision to bench Drummond that I mentioned earlier. But he needed to make tighter coverage of Lakers behind the arc the biggest point of emphasis. Also, in the Pistons’ worst shooting game of the season, he stubbornly refused to give much burn to their few plus shooters.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The officiating was awful. There weren’t many 50/50 calls to go either way, but blatantly bad calls were repeatedly made in the Lakers’ favor. I mentioned some of the missed hacks on Stuckey earlier and the ridiculous Siva TO. Also, Drummond picked up his 4th foul on what would have been a no call if Hill hadn’t rolled his ankle. Pope got whistled for fouling Johnson on a play when he never touched him. Jordan Farmar clearly knocked a ball out of bounds late in the fourth but it was called Lakers ball and then he immediately buried a three. And finally, Josh Smith’s game losing offensive foul doesn’t happen if Shawne Williams doesn’t push him into Nick Young.The Lakers incredibly sloppy offense and rebounding meant Detroit should have won this even with Williams and Johnson channeling the spirits of Curry and Thompson. But the repeated bad calls were too much to overcome. My grades may seem generous, but that’s because I think the Pistons easily win this contest if it is close to fairly officiated.
  2. The Pistons managed to go 29 minutes without ever hitting a shot from outside the paint. I don’t know if that has ever happened before to any NBA team, but I’ve certainly never seen it. Monroe finally hit one halfway through the third, followed by a Singler three and one jumper each by Stuckey and Jennings. Jennings got two more in the 4th and that was it. 6 jump shots all game.Jennings also actually hit a 60 footer just before the halftime buzzer, but it was waved off as a TO before the shot.
  3. Related to the previous point, the Pistons scored an NBA season high 76 points in the paint.

Lakers invade Motown

Essentials

  • Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (8-8) at Detroit Pistons (6-9_
  • Date: November 29, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons were lit up at home in their last contest with the Chicago Bulls and as a result, they will be looking to bounce back tonight when they host the Los Angeles Lakers.

Mind you, the Purple and Gold defeated them by double digits less than two weeks ago at Staples Center thanks in large part to Jordan Hill’s monster performance. The big man produced 24 points and 17 rebounds for Los Angeles.

The contest spoke volumes about the Pistons’ ineptitude on defense. Indeed, the Lakers have been one of the worst offensive teams in the league in 2013-14 and yet, they had their way against Detroit in mid-November.

In the head-to-head contest on November 17, Los Angeles scored 114 points against Mo Cheeks’ group. They accomplished this by manufacturing 44 points in the paint and converting 10-of-25 shots from 3-point range.

Pau Gasol and company shot 52.2 percent form the field and only committed 13 turnovers. A quick glance at the box score would lead you to believe that these Lakers are an elite team based on the way they dominated every offensive category against the Pistons.

This kind of performance simply cannot be reproduced on Detroit’s end if they truly hope to contend for a playoff spot. The Pistons simply are not good enough to steal games in which their defense basically fails to get off the bus.

The Pistons find ways to score points, but they are not a juggernaut and as a result, abysmal defensive showings basically doom them.

The Lakers are a great 3-point shooting team and consequently, they can make it rain from long range when left open. They accomplish this via dribble penetration, pick-and-rolls and post-ups.

They hunt down 3-pointers like it’s nobody’s business because that’s what the coaching staff emphasizes. They are a top-five team in terms of conversion rate from downtown and attempts on these types of shots.

Thus, Detroit has to run them off the line and force them to settle for mid-range jumpers or concede the long-range shots and take everything else away. Los Angeles cannot have it all, otherwise the Pistons will be playing the exact same game they participated in earlier in the month: a game in which they got smoked.

Read about the Lakers

Forum Blue and Gold.

Pistons play like turkeys, get gobbled up by Bulls

Chicago Bulls 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
79 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -12

Monroe wasn’t imposing his will in any way. So, when Maurice Cheeks realized Detroit’s three-big lineup couldn’t cover the mid-range well enough against Chicago (see more in the Cheeks section), Monroe became the big to sit. Monroe’s 22 minutes are by far a season low, and that’s what he deserved tonight. Hopefully, the extra rest has him in peak form Friday.

Josh Smith, SF 34 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-4 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | -17

He struggled to guard Luol Deng (27 points on 11-of-17 shooting), but Smith was fine defensively when matched up with Chicago’s bigs. Smith had some nice offensive moves, including a behind-the-back pass to give Greg Monroe a layup. But the flash was tarnished by Smith forcing a few too many bad shots and dangerous passes.

Andre Drummond, C 39 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -20

Drummond covered a lot of ground defensively and was only occasionally successful. Is he playing his assignment in the Pistons’ aggressive defense, or is he getting out of position? I’d like to see him stay home more often, allowing others to apply pressure. Offensively, the Pistons have to get Drummond the ball more in the halfcourt. He’s too valuable to shoot only 10 times if most of the attempts come in transition or off offensive rebounds, as was the case tonight.

Brandon Jennings, PG 33 MIN | 5-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -17

In the game’s first seven minutes, Jennings was 3-of-3 for eight points. So, he forced the mother of all heat-check 3-pointers. Of course, it missed, and Jennings’ wasted only one possession attempting to prove the research of Sandy Weil. I suppose that could have been worse. After that, Jennings settled into his typical, but not extreme, poor shot selection. Defensively, Jennings is establishing himself as someone who can be an absolute pest on the ball and in passing lanes, but someone who can get lost in team defense.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 19 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -6

Every other Pistons starter made a shot in the game’s first four-and-a-half minutes, so Caldwell-Pope faded into the background. He can’t be that fragile. Passable defense – at times – saves Caldwell-Pope from failing on a night his offense ranged from passive to putrid.

Tony Mitchell, PF 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2

Getting offensive rebounds is a nice first step, but now Mitchell must improve on what he does after that. Missing a pair of free throws is not the answer, and neither is falling while losing his balance. But that’s why Mitchell plays in these moments: To get more comfortable on the court and gain composure.

Josh Harrellson, PF 8 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -4

Harrellson is adept at using his big frame to create creases in the post, and he’s not afraid to bang inside defensively. But when opposing bigs use speed moves on him, he’s in trouble.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 11 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1

Jerebko played non-descript enough that this game won’t hurt his case for playing time, but it won’t be the impetus for his return to the rotation, either. Jerebko staring at the ceiling after missing a layup late summed up the night for the Pistons.

Charlie Villanueva, PF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +4

When he entered the game in the second quarter, Villanueva played as if he knew he had a rotation spot. Unlike many nights, he didn’t immediately force his shot in a bid to prove his worthiness. Then suddenly, Villanueva tried to cross over Joakim Noah, who stole the ball, and then forced a 3-pointer at the next opportunity. He didn’t play in the second half.

Luigi Datome, SF 2 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +2

Datome made both his shots in the closing moments of garbage time, but to be persnickety, both were long 2s that should have been 3s. But Datome was not aware enough of where he was on the court and set up just inside the arc. He also played tough defense on the perimeter to force a turnover.

Kyle Singler, SF 22 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -14

Beside putting back an airballed Harrellson 3-pointer, Singler had only one notable offensive play – and it didn’t count. He got up court in a hurry, spotted up beyond the arc and made a 3-pointer. But he stepped out of bounds on the sideline before the shot. Someone check his glasses. Singler was involved so little offensively because he was working his tail off to do what Smith couldn’t: Defend Luol Deng. Singler had the best results of any Piston on Deng, and the second-year small forward might be positioning himself for a bigger role. If Cheeks ever brings one of the starting bigs off the bench, I’d be shocked if Singler doesn’t move into the starting lineup.

Will Bynum, PG 15 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -3

The offense just flowed really poorly when he was in the game. Bynum didn’t shoot well and missed pass openings.

Rodney Stuckey, SG 29 MIN | 9-16 FG | 7-8 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | -14

It was once a huge deal whenever Stuckey dunked. Tonight, he dunked twice, including this hammer. He balanced those slams with a strong mid-range game, too. Stuckey was active on defense, but sometimes that was only because he had to after getting out of position.

Maurice Cheeks

The Bulls made 15-of-20 mid-range shots (75 percent), an incredible stat for two reasons. 1. League average from that range is just 40 percent. 2. It didn’t seem fluky the Bulls shot so well from there, because they were so open. As, I’ve mentioned before, Smith, Monroe and Drummond lack the foot speed to cover as much ground outside the paint as a frontcourt collectively should. Cheeks adjusted by going to more two-big lineups, primarily sitting Monroe. But the bigs weren’t the only issue. If the Pistons are going to play an aggressive defense, they’ll likely allow more than their share of open shots. That’s OK, at least in theory, because an aggressive defense can lead to more forced turnovers and, theoretically, more transition opportunities and a better offense. If the Pistons are going to grant open shots, I’m fine with mid-range looks to frontcourt players. That’s still better than allowing shots at the rim and 3-pointers. Taj Gibson especially took advantage by scoring 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting, getting many open looks from mid-range. Those mid-range makes were a huge reason the Bulls won tonight, but do it all over again, and I still might cede many of those attempts. Cheeks picked the right poison. The Bulls just had the antidote tonight.

Not the Bulls we use to know…

Essentials

  • Teams: Chicago Bulls (6-7) at Detroit Pistons (6-8)
  • Date: November 27, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FS Detroit Plus

What to look for

The reign of the Chicago Bulls has seemingly come to an end in one night. Derrick Rose tore his meniscus in a contest against the Portland Trail Blazers and had surgery on the injured knee.

The tear has resulted in Rose being on the shelf for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. This may very well be the end of these rising Bulls. It’s a harsh reality for the franchise to come to grips with when we look at where they were previously.

This may seem like it was a while ago, but Rose was the starting point guard for Chicago during the 2009 playoffs. That year, the Bulls stretched out the Boston Celtics to a wild seven-game series that entertained the masses.

Rose showed enough promise and talent during that postseason and the ensuing campaign that Chicago became one of the destinations with a great chance at securing the services of LeBron James during the 2010 offseason.

The Bulls struck out and instead signed Carlos Boozer to a mammoth contract. In addition, the front office put some terrific young pieces around Rose that also fit the philosophy of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Armed with the best defense in the league, a combination of bruising interior players and a top-10 player, Chicago took the league by storm. They won a league-high 62 games in 2010-11 and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals.

James’ Miami Heat eliminated them in five games but the future seemed incredibly bright. It appeared as though Chicago and Miami were destined to do this for a few more years with Rose and James playing central figures in the rivalry.

Both seemed headed on a collision course once more in the 2012 playoffs, but Rose tore his ACL in the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers and was lost for the remainder of that run.

Furthermore, the injury was severe enough that the former Memphis Tiger sat out the entire 2012-13 campaign. Mind you, Rose was going to come back better than ever in the minds of many.

He would be armed again with a core of incredibly mentally and physically tough players. That elite defense coupled with Rose’s talents had a chance to not only to contend for the title, but win it outright.

Indeed, news of the superstar’s return as well as his preseason play prompted Grantland’s Bill Simmons to pick Chicago to win the 2013-14 title. However, that goal has all but turned into dust.

The Bulls have lost their leader not one, not two, but three times at this point. In turn, whether the players on the team see the writing on the wall or not, it’s there.

Luol Deng becomes a free agent at the end of this season and Boozer has long been discussed in the media and fan boards as an amnesty candidate. In addition, the Bulls are projected to be over the cap both this season and next according to Hoopworld.

Is it worth nearing the luxury tax line (they are currently a tax team) with a roster that simply is not good enough to contend for a championship? That question will be answered in the coming months.

In the meantime, this uncertainty may very well have a ripple effect on how the current season unfolds. Make no mistake, these Bulls always play hard. They will enter tonight’s contest as a top-five defense because that’s what they have always done under Thibodeau.

But at some point, the reality is simply too hard to ignore. This team is will not compete for a championship and consequently, their mental makeup might change. That’s not to say it will, but it’s not exactly difficult to fathom.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports shared his insights on this very topic:

“Several players, including Rose, have fully lined up with coach Tom Thibodeau in his never-ending battle with the front office. Rose and Luol Deng carry resentments with management, too. Thibodeau doesn’t want to lose Deng to free agency, but management seems determined to choose the younger Jimmy Butler’s contract extension over Deng for the future.”

Oddly enough, we have already seen this situation unfold before: Brandon Roy’s Trail Blazers. A team that was on the rise essentially fell apart when their star perimeter player kept getting injured.

Tonight’s matchup at the Palace of Auburn Hills is one of the first looks we will get at this Chicago team in the midst of this tumultuous time. If there are cracks in the foundation, they will begin to show.

Their six-game road trip has been a disaster so far as evidenced by their four straight defeats. They have a matchup on the road with the Detroit Pistons tonight and then will play at the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 30.

Can they stem the tide and regain their footing? Maurice Cheeks group will play a part in that tonight.

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns.

3-on-3: Sustaining success

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1.  It may have come against two bad teams, but the Pistons have won two straight games for the first time this season. Big deal?

Dan Feldman: No. Of the NBA’s 30 teams, 25 already have two-game win streaks, and the Pistons’ consecutive wins came over two of the five teams that haven’t won back to back-to-back games. The human mind finds patterns where they don’t exists. Re-arrange the Pistons’ schedule, and I bet they win and lose the same games.

Jameson Draper:  Hopefully it means the team’s finally coming together. The offense has worked seamlessly all season, but now the defense is showing up a little bit and holding teams to— no, this is not a typo— UNDER 100 POINTS! It very well could mean nothing, as both the Nets and the Bucks are bad teams, but it could be something.

Brady Fredericksen: Kind of. The Pistons aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet, but they’re manufacturing offense through defense. Scoring hasn’t been a disaster. It’s been defending. As long as the Pistons can at least play passable defense, they’ll steadily improve.

2. Which player is most responsible for the winning streak?

Dan Feldman: Rodney Stuckey. He’s scoring and defending well, and when a player like him plays with so much energy, it’s contagious. As the longest-tenured Piston, Stuckey has solidified his reputation for drifting. The upside is that when he’s going hard, it sticks out and invigorates.

Jameson Draper: Rodney Stuckey has been great. He’s scoring beaucoup points and stepping it up on defense. It seems coming off the bench was the right decision for him.

Brady Fredericksen: Brandon Jennings has been key, too. Maybe he’s just getting more comfortable, but the more he finds a way to balance his scoring opportunities with his distribution of the ball, the better this team will look.

3. How do the Pistons sustain this type of play once the schedule toughens back up?

Dan Feldman: Defend aggressively and run. Regardless of opponent, the Pistons have played well these last two games when they’ve attacked defensively. I don’t think two wins over bad teams mean the Pistons are on track, but they’ve found a style that works.

Jameson Draper: Well, they just have to use the skills they’ve honed against these poor teams and use it to their advantage against the better teams. It’s not very complex, they just have to step up their defense and continue to produce offensively. This is what they’ve been trying to do all season, not necessarily a new discovery.

Brady Fredericksen:  Defend and get out on the break. That starts with pick-and-roll defense, which is legitimately the most elementary aspect of team basketball. If you can’t contain it, you stand little chance of winning. Under Lawrence Frank last season, the Pistons seemingly over-played every pick-and-roll. Through 10 or so games under Maurice Cheeks this season, they seemingly didn’t play any of them. They were slow and indecisive, unsure whether playing the ball handler or the roller/shooter was correct. Now, at least in a half against Brooklyn and against Milwaukee, they’re semi-trapping and trying to force turnovers. That can be risky, but the benefits out-weigh the risks if you can get out and score in transition.

Will Bynum pays electric bill to keep two Chicago women’s shelters open

Wendell Hutson of DNAinfo Chicago:

After he pays the electric bills Tuesday for two women’s shelters, Detroit Pistons point guard and Chicago native Will Bynum will host a Thanksgiving dinner for the shelters’ residents.

Clara Kirk, founder of the West Englewood United Organization, which runs Clara’s Place and Clara’s House at 1650 W. 63rd St., said Bynum will pay nearly $3,000 owed to ComEd.

Bynum, who once lived in Englewood and attended Crane High School, said his efforts go far beyond money.

“This is bigger than just paying an electric bill and giving dinners to those in need, it is about me seeing a need and doing my part to help," Bynum said. "I want the homeless and battered women who are living in the shelter to know there is someone who cares, that the situation can and will get better."

Never change, Will. Never change.

Brandon Jennings shows up Bucks with dribbling display, bothers Caron Butler

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Updated: Caron Butler sure as heck doesn’t hold the higher ground (hat tip: bvpiston):

Pistons throttle Bucks, inch closer to .500

Milwaukee Bucks 94 FinalRecap | Box Score 113 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 32 MIN | 5-10 FG | 6-8 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +21Ho-hum night for Monroe, who just kind of did his job. He’s finding is spots, and he’s becoming more comfortable with the big lineup. His defense hasn’t been terrible the last two games, either. Underrated Note: if you take out that stinker in Los Angeles, Monroe is shooting 73 percent from the free throw line, his best since his sophomore season.
Josh Smith, SF 35 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +32Smith did the little things tonight, and that’s what you like to see. When the Pistons actually playing defense and forcing turnovers, it doesn’t pigeon hole him into chasing opposing small forwards all over. The more the Pistons force turnovers and get out on the break, the less he’ll be hypnotized into shooting long jumpers, too.
Andre Drummond, C 25 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +13The role that Drummond plays for this team isn’t a breathtaking one, but he somehow finds a way to make it look that way. It wasn’t his strongest game tonight, but when your teammates aren’t missing shots for you to gobble up and put back, that’s probably an alright problem to have.
Brandon Jennings, PG 36 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 13 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 15 PTS | +15Jennings at halftime: “I think we’re up 30 right now so we’re going to try to push it up to 60.” That pretty much says everything about where his head was at tonight. He’s steadily improved on his propensity to shoot everything that’s open, and he’s actively looking for guys off screens; that’s exactly what he needs to do. His 3-point barrage in the first quarter set the tone for tonight’s bloodbath. He won the battle of the Brandons with former Piston, Brandon Knight — if you were interested.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 36 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | 0Caldwell-Pope’s made the progression from skittish to aggressive and it finally showed when his jumper dropped. He’s just looking so much more comfortable on the floor these days. The shot is going to fall more as the year goes on, and as long as the effort is there, he’ll be on the floor.
Tony Mitchell, PF 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | 0Nice dunk, rook.
Josh Harrellson, PF 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -10There’s a value to having Harrellson on the floor. He’s a space-eating rebounder, that’s nice to have. It’s also nice that he can make an open 3-pointer, but that should be more of an “oh crap, shot clock’s running down” shot, not an, “oh crap, Josh’s open” shot.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 5 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +1Jerebko had some nice clean-up baskets, and he brought energy. He’s probably next in line to get some legitimate minutes after this Productive Charlie Villanueva stretch fades.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 13 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -4Speak of the devil. Is it possible Villanueva noticed how hard Stuckey is playing and realized, “Hey, if I want to get paid, I’ve got to be like that!” It’s worth mentioning that he Villanueva’d his way to five shots (four makes) in just six first-half minutes. When it rains, it pours.
Luigi Datome, SF 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Datome didn’t contribute a whole lot, and until he works out that, “Can’t defend anything that moves” problem, he’s probably going to be stuck to the bench.
Kyle Singler, SF 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +14After a quick stint in the first quarter, we never saw Singler again. MLive’s David Mayo reports Singler had a reaction to the contact lenses he usually wears during games and was prohibited from wearing them for a week. So, the eye discomfort kept him limited tonight.
Will Bynum, PG 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +1In Bynum’s defense, this was his first game since Nov. 15, but he really wasn’t great tonight. Didn’t have his shot, did have a nice alley-oop to Drummond, but otherwise it was a pretty forgettable night.
Rodney Stuckey, SG 30 MIN | 7-11 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +12I vote that we just start calling him Rodney “#PayMe” Stuckey for the rest of his time in Detroit. Admittedly, it’s hard to fully buy into this productive, consistent version of Stuckey, but what are the chances he’s really putting it together for at least a year? Either way, Stuckey playing well is beneficial for both the Pistons and himself.
Maurice Cheeks
Perhaps Cheeks finally sat down and watched the tape of the Pistons best defensive quarters of the season — the second quarter versus Indiana and the third quarter against Brooklyn. This team had an identity on that side of the ball tonight. It’s worthing noting that Milwaukee is terrible. But, if you’re not going to be able to keep up with teams in the half court, you might as well play extremely aggressive and look to force turnovers as much as possible. The thing about these Pistons is that, while they don’t have the skill to play superb offense or defense in the half court, they do have athleticism and they do have players that are more than willing to get out on the break and get easy baskets. It looks like that’s something Cheeks has hammered into them. Force turnovers, get on the break and you don’t have to worry about spacing issues or ill-timed shots — that’s going to be this team’s winning formula going forward.

PistonPowered Live: Pistons vs. Bucks

Tonight’s guest on PistonPowered Live is Brew Hoop blogger Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning).