|Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 6-15 FG | 6-6 FT | 17 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +9If you throw out a terrible second quarter where Monroe missed all three of his shots and grabbed just two rebounds, he piled up 16 points and 15 rebounds in three quarters. Most of those struggles came against the Bucks’ big lineup of Ekpe Udoh and John Henson, and they’re both looong and athletic — Monroe’s primary kryptonite.|
|Josh Smith, SF 42 MIN | 6-19 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +8Smith struggled again tonight offensively, forcing up way too many long jumpers. This isn’t a recording, but that’s still a product of playing small forward and being around the perimeter. He needs to use his size as an advantage against other small forwards more. If you can’t shoot over them, muscle them a bit.|
|Andre Drummond, C 38 MIN | 8-13 FG | 8-14 FT | 19 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +17We might be seeing the start of something here with Drummond. The guy’s just so productive, and he’s so low maintenance at that. He’s grabbed 56 rebounds in his last three games. The more the Pistons feature him offensively, the better they’ve gotten — coincidence? The big man also went 8-for-14 from the line, which is an, uh, improvement.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG 42 MIN | 4-16 FG | 7-8 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 6 TO | 17 PTS | +15Early in the game, it was Brandon Jennings vs. the City of Milwaukee. Once he got that out of his system, he looked pretty good. Chemistry is obviously building between Jennings and his teammates, specifically Drummond. That’s great, but there were also two instances of Jennings leaving his feet to pass — and legitimately having no clue where to go once he got up there — but outside of his shooting, he was productive in his return.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 28 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +7Stats won’t show it, but Caldwell-Pope was great defensively tonight. He really made life tough for OJ Mayo and Gary Neal, as well as hitting some shots (including a pair of 3-pointers) on his own.|
|Josh Harrellson, PF 3 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4Harrellson missed some bunnies in the second quarter when Milwaukee went to their zone. If the Bucks’ long, athletic defenders bothered Monroe, imagine how much they bothered Jorts?|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -3Slowly, Jerebko is sneaking his way back into the rotation. As long as he does the little things out there — rebound, defend — and avoids forcing the issue on offense, he’ll stick around and get some minutes.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 21 MIN | 5-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | -9Well, well, it looks like Singler found his jump shot. It was tough to watch him struggle early this year, but he did everything else he needed to do to maintain Maurice Cheeks’ trust. If he can shoot it consistently, he’s going to be very valuable to the Pistons.|
|Peyton Siva, PG 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -4He committed a charge and otherwise just chased Luke Ridnour around. At this point, Siva just isn’t ready to play.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 25 MIN | 1-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -1It’s crazy to think that Contract Year Rodney Stuckey is capable of an off-night, but tonight he struggled. For all he lacked offensively, he played decent defense and moved the ball.|
Similar to Monroe, if you forget about the Pistons’ struggles in the second quarter, he did a pretty good job. Detroit’s defense was great in the third quarter, which is where the Pistons out-scored the Bucks 35-17. It seems like he’s making an effort to feature Drummond more on offense, which is good. It’s just he can’t find a way to keep Smith from floating around the 3-point line constantly, that’s bad. You’ve also got to give him some credit for sticking with Singler throughout his slump; it’s paid dividends the past two nights.
Tonight’s guest on PistonPowered Live is none other than PistonPowered’s very own Brady Fredericksen (@Brady_Fred). Tune in at halftime to see the show!
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (8-10) at Milwaukee Bucks (3-14)
- Date: December 4, 2013
- Time: 8:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons started their three-game road trip with a bang. They defeated the Miami Heat on their own floor thanks in large part to a superb collective effort.
They consistently led throughout the contest by double digits and got a late scare in the game when the Heat made a run in the fourth quarter. Still, the Pistons picked apart a stifling Miami defense with exquisite passing.
Pistons players were consistently a step ahead of the Heat rotations and thus, they kept finding the open player either directly at the basket or from deep. The Heat eventually turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter and made a game of it, but Mo Cheeks’ guys eventually found their footing and won the contest by double figures.
The next leg of this small trip has Detroit making a pit stop tonight in the state of Wisconsin in what has now become the toughest game of this east voyage.
The Milwaukee Bucks own the worst record in the league and their play certainly reflects their loss total. They simply are not all that talented and their schemes fail to take advantage of the pieces on the roster.
The Pistons defeated the Bucks in late November by 19 points and probably feel as though they can reproduce such a result even on the road. Keep in mind, tonight’s contest comes on the heels of a victory over the back-to-back champs.
Hence, Detroit has every reason to be feeling themselves going into this matchup. In other words, they might be looking past this game and getting ready for their bout with the Chicago Bulls.
This could be a huge mistake given that Milwaukee could still surprise them. Granted, they have only collected three victories in 2013-14 and in addition, they have come against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, on the right night, any opponent can fall, especially if the 3-ball is in play. Tonight’s hosts sport a top-10 shooting team from downtown and the long ball often plays the role of equalizer whenever underdogs find ways to stay within striking distance of an opposing team.
The Pistons better be wary of the Bucks.
Read about the Bucks
|Greg Monroe, PF 37 MIN | 8-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | +11
Whether working with or without the ball, Monroe consistently established shooting position deep in the paint. In fact, all 10 of his shots came in the paint. The undersized Heat did their best to swat at the ball when Monroe had it, but he showed off his improved core strength to keep them at bay. Monroe looked bad defensively, but he was often guarding perimeter players – obviously not his forte. Monroe’s defensive issues seemed mostly due to a gameplan that put him in position to fail (though maybe a gameplan that sacrificed Monroe on defense to avoid greater problems on that end).
|Josh Smith, SF 39 MIN | 7-21 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | +3
Shots. So many shots. Smith made just 1-of-10 attempts beyond seven feet, a mark that is dreadful for both the volume and quality of his jumpers. Smith defended well, but his performance on that end fell short of the of the high bar that convinces coaches to look past his poor shot selection.
|Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-6 FT | 18 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -2
Drummond had a few 50-50 calls go against him, and that led to him fouling out. Before that, he rebounded like crazy, especially offensively, and provided plus defense. Drummond has to be more careful about avoiding fouls. He’s too good to get trapped on the bench, even if he didn’t necessarily deserve it.
|Brandon Jennings, PG 44 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 15 PTS | +3
Jennings often over-dribbled, which resulted in most of his season-high seven turnovers. Those were problematic, but they didn’t define Jennings’ performance. He got to the rim effectively and made 2-of-4 3-pointers. He also used his quick hands to make up for otherwise-pedestrian defense, most memorably late in the fourth quarter as Detroit prevented a Miami comeback. LeBron James drove on a fastbreak, but Jennings made a quick swipe as LeBron rose to finish. Then, Jennings got the ball upcourt in a hurry for a Monroe layup.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +13
Caldwell-Pope started very aggressively, making 3-of-4 shots in the first five minutes, by cutting harder off the ball than he usually does. Then, he faded into the background.
|Josh Harrellson, PF 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +5
Harrellson didn’t really play like himself. He drove from beyond the arc right through the Miami defense, and he also attempted a mid-range jumper. On defense, he covered LeBron on the perimeter, and LeBron took a 3-pointer. All three shots missed, probably a decent tradeoff.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 10 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +4
Jerebko was very active and shot well. Offensive and defensively, I was quite pleased with him. He’s knocking on the door of getting another chance at a bigger role.
|Kyle Singler, SF 27 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +9
Singler rewarded Cheeks’ confidence by making 4-of-7 3-pointers, leading Detroit’s 7-for-16 night from beyond the arc. That brings the number of Pistons making 3s at better than the league-average clip to… one – Rodney Stuckey, a notoriously bad outside shooter who would be below average had he missed one more of his small sample of 3s. Only one current Piston has a career 3-point percentage above the current league-wide season average, and that’s Chauncey Billups, who’s both injured and past his prime. Long story short, Singler’s and Detroit’s outside shooting against Miami was impressive, but it wasn’t encouraging – and there’s a difference. That Singler, now up to 29 percent for the season, is one of the Pistons’ top 3-point shooters says more about them than him.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 33 MIN | 4-9 FG | 8-8 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 16 PTS | +4
Stuckey is not shy about attacking nearly every time he gets the ball. That led to plenty of free throws, shots near the basket and turnovers. In this game, and most games lately, those positive outcomes far outweigh the negative ones. Stuckey also got a few assists by faking a drive to create passing lanes.
I don’t think Cheeks was the catalyst for this win. The Heat had a ton of unforced turnovers and missed many open 3-pointers they’d typically make. But the Pistons did a good job of generating fastbreak opportunities (15 fastbreak points) and quality looks in semi-transition (60 points in the paint) even though Miami sacrifices offensive rebounds to get back on defense. Cheeks’ style is really beginning to take hold, and that particularly shows in games like this one, when no single player dominates.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (7-10) at Miami Heat (14-3)
- Date: December 3, 2013
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons will start a fairly small but difficult three-game road trip tonight that has them making stops in three separate states. They will take on the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in their respective venues.
The matchup against the Bucks probably does not inspire much fear, but Miami and Chicago have been Eastern Conference powerhouses since 2010-11 and as a result, Mo Cheeks’ players will have to bring their best effort.
It all starts tonight in a contest against the defending champions. Miami is flying under the radar this season because of the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers, but they are one of the most balanced teams in the entire league.
They are the proud owners of a top-10 offense and defense, a feat that is reserved for only a handful of teams (the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are the other units accomplishing this).
Offensively, they are one of the most fun teams to watch in the league. It’s easy to stop at LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but it’s also a mistake. The Heat have superstars to carry them through games but it’s not always a necessity.
Miami is quite comfortable with sharing the ball and playing as a unit until the contributions of the superstars are truly needed. They own the best offensive efficiency in the league because they give up good shots to obtain great ones.
They own the best field goal percentage in the NBA and are amongst the top-five passing teams in the Association. The Heat hunt down 3-point shots and seemingly always create an open look from long range thanks to a combination of execution and misdirection.
Indeed, they will use the same play over and over again and add a few wrinkles every now and then to continuously keep defenses off balance. For instance, they will have Ray Allen set a screen and then receive a back screen of his own to run free for an open jumper.
After using that, they might remove the back screen from the play and just have him drift out towards the perimeter with his man hugging me, which creates a perfect driving lane for the ball-handler.
Miami just always keeps the floor spread out manages to create open looks. Even when the offense takes them all the way to their fifth option on a given play, it’s usually a decent mid-range jumper.
When all the avenues have been exhausted on particular set, Erik Spoelstra simply puts the ball in the hands of LeBron and asks him to bail the team out. James is shooting 59.8 percent from the field this year and in addition, he is making 48.1 percent of his treys.
These factors make Miami a juggernaut with the ball in their hands. Keep in mind, they are just as scary on the other end of the floor.
The Heat play at two different gears defensively and it’s quite misleading. They have a relaxed and controlled level of defense where they wall off the paint and contest shots. That’s good enough to beat most teams in the NBA. That’s their cruise control gear.
When they are playing at their peak, they trap, switch and jump into passing lanes. They force turnovers and stymie opponents trying to get into their sets. Also, Miami has some big wings that can cover point guards and make their lives quite difficult.
Thus, there is a chance that Brandon Jennings will see either Wade or James at some point depending on lineups tonight. The Pistons have a tough battle ahead of them tonight, but they have some of the necessary weapons needed to counter their hosts.
Detroit lacks shooters, however they can make up for that weakness with solid passing. The Heat defenders like to get a jump on their rotations, which makes them prone to ball fakes.
The tandem of Josh Smith and Greg Monroe can definitely help on this front as pressure release points. It will be interesting to see if they can outsmart a team that perfectly blends athleticism, execution and team play on both sides of the ball.
Read about the Heat
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. While the Heat have cruised to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference this season, all three of their losses have come against teams with a combined record of 18-36. What gives?
Dan Feldman: Those losses came by four points, one point and one point. Miami has also won 10 straight since that last defeat. So, what gives? The proverbial inability to win them all. That’s it. I don’t think Miami is any more susceptible to losing to bad teams than any other back-to-back defending champion favorited to repeat. The Heat have their eyes on the playoffs, so they might not rout every bad team, and anything can happen in close games.
Brady Fredericksen: It’s hard to push the pedal to the metal nightly. It’s odd that the Heat’s three losses have come against bad teams like Philly, Boston and Brooklyn — not to mention they almost lost to Charlotte last night. Sometimes it’s just hard to get motivated, and that happens to all of us. The Pistons took out a sleeping (and Dwyane Wade-less) Heat team last season at the Palace, too. When you’re as good as Miami is, and as the Pistons were in their glory days, you can turn “it” on when you please.
Tim Thielke: The Heat are good enough to beat any given team. But they can’t play full throttle all the time because of the long schedule. So they let any team hang around. The fact that bad ones have prevailed is just flukish.
2. Both side have their own unique strengths, but what in particular will each be able to exploit during the game?
Dan Feldman: The Heat create and make a lot of 3-pointers, and the Pistons are particularly bad at defending the perimeter. I don’t see either team deviating from its season-long marks there. On the flip side, the Heat basically surrender the offensive glass in order to get back on defense. The Pistons, one of the NBA’s top defensive rebounding teams, should have no issue securing Miami’s misses. Generating transition opportunities afterward should prove much more difficult, though.
Brady Fredericksen: Miami’s going to be able to exploit its shooting and plethora of playmakers, but the Pistons have a big advantage down low. Most of the Heat’s success comes from lineups where they’ve got LeBron James and Chris Bosh manning the power forward and center spots. That presents a speed/athleticism advantage, but the Pistons are going to be able to throw big man after big man at Miami. If the Pistons can pound the paint and defend it effectively, that may be enough to keep things close.
Tim Thielke: What are sometimes labeled “hustle points” ought to show the biggest margins. Detroit should dominate the second chance points while Miami runs away on fast break points.
3. What are the Pistons going to have to do in order to upset the defending champs on the road?
Dan Feldman: Ride Andre Drummond and make the Heat adjust. The Pistons will probably lose this game no matter what strategy they use, but if they play it on Miami’s small-ball terms, their odds decrease even further. Go big, feed Drummond inside and hope the Heat must deviate from their preferred rotations in order to match up.
Brady Fredericksen: Hope LeBron has an off night. That’s the easiest way to beat Miami, but on the same token, I’m also interested in how Josh Smith’s defends him. Unfortunately, LeBron has treated Smith like a throughout their careers. They’ve played 29 times, and in that span LeBron has dropped 40, 43 and 48 points on Smith-led teams — all while averaging 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. That is, um, well, not fair.
Tim Thielke: Honestly, their best shot is Miami not respecting Detroit and letting them stick around through the first 3 quarters. And they really need to work to limit turnovers. Those are free points for the Heat. But I don’t think this is a good matchup for the Pistons. Pencil in a loss.
|Greg Monroe, PF 26 MIN | 1-6 FG | 5-6 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | +9
Monroe seemed a step slow on both ends of the court, and that frustrated him into two technical fouls. At least Monroe played mostly within himself prior to his ejection. He kept the ball moving on offense and cleaned the glass on defense. That doesn’t negate his overall poor play, but Monroe’s low-usage game shows a little maturity. I’d much rather get 1-for-6 than 4-for-18 when a player feels off.
|Josh Smith, SF 35 MIN | 8-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +22
If Smith’s teammates didn’t play so well, his tendency to force bad jumpers would have been more glaring. Three times, Smith took a bad long 2-pointer for no other reason than he looked impatient about not having shot lately. Because those attempts to waste possessions didn’t matter, we can focus on everything Smith did right. He made 3-of-5 3-pointers – all of them at least OK looks – and finished well inside. Smith gets a break for his low rebounding numbers on both ends. The Pistons made 57 percent of their shots with Smith on the court, so there were few offensive rebounding opportunities for him. His interior defense was excellent, and when he’s busy forcing misses, it’s his teammates’ responsibility to grab the boards (which they did). Smith’s perimeter defense remains suspect, however – a real problem for a small forward.
|Andre Drummond, C 33 MIN | 12-15 FG | 7-18 FT | 19 REB | 0 AST | 6 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 31 PTS | +25
Drummond was an absolute beast on both ends. His career highs in points, rebounds and steals to go with two blocks give him marks in those four stats that nobody else besides Hakeem Olajuwon achieved since at least 1985-86. And Drummond was as good as the numbers indicate. The 76ers just couldn’t account for him on either end, so they went to hack-a-Drummond. Drummond made just 6-of-14 free throws when sent to the line for two attempts, and the .857 points per possession on those plays probably justified Brett Brown’s strategy, even considering that Philadelphia’s offense would get practically no transition opportunities after free throws. Maurice Cheeks sat Drummond during one stretch of intentional fouling, and if Drummond can raise his free-throw percentage even slightly, Cheeks probably wouldn’t have to do that.
|Brandon Jennings, PG 38 MIN | 7-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 20 PTS | +10
Jennings did a good job of getting the Pistons into transition, and he did a great job of setting them up for good shots once they were running. His handling of the halfcourt offense was a little dicier, but because he pushed the pace effectively, that didn’t comprise a large portion of his game. He also had a very heads up play trying to shoot a 3-pointer just before the 76ers intentionally fouled Drummond. Jennings didn’t quite get it off, but that play could be an effective counter to hack-a-Drummond. The key is getting upcourt quickly enough to get a decent shot before the intentional foul, just in case the foul isn’t called.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +7
Caldwell-Pope ran the floor hard, made 2-of-5 3-pointers and defended pretty well. He wasn’t his best at any part of his game, but he was solid at all of them. Games like this, where he plays within himself and complements Detroit’s better players, justify his starting spot.
|Tony Mitchell, PF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2
Mitchell had a nice block and baited (watched?) a Philadelphia transition miss in a mostly uneventful three minutes.
|Josh Harrellson, PF 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +9
Harrellson bothered the 76ers whenever they drove into the paint with him on the court. He also set an illegal screen, which was not only his only notable offensive play, but also wiped out his most-used offensive weapon.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | -11
Jerebko was up-and-down all game. He had the ball stolen from him in the backcourt by Michael Carter-Williams, who made a quick layup. Then less than a minute later, Jerebko harassed Carter-Williams on an inbound to get a steal and layup of his own. Later, Jerebko made a nice cut then muffed the pass for what would have been a layup. His defense was also hit or miss, and his shot selection was fine, but one negative play stands out. Jerebko missed a 3-pointer, and while he watched the shot, Evan Turner beat him upcourt for an easy layup.
|Luigi Datome, SF 3 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2
Datome worked hard enough on defense and on the glass to justify a rotation spot for a dead-eye shooter, but he also missed both his shot attempts. Really, these few-minute glimpses of Datome tell us next to nothing about him.
|Kyle Singler, SF 16 MIN | 1-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -2
Singler didn’t make much impact, though a couple garbage-time misses make his underwhelming shooting line look worse than it really was.
|Peyton Siva, PG 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -1
Siva applied excellent defensive pressure. The offense appeared to be rather basic when he ran it, even in the second quarter while played with other rotation players. On a related note, the offense was very ineffective when Siva directed it.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 32 MIN | 7-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +11
Stuckey is an absolute bull. He uses his strength to get to the basket and create short mid-range attempts. This was far from his best performance of the season, but Stuckey’s style makes him consistently good when he’s engaged, and right now, he’s engaged. Also, Stuckey defends really hard after making mistakes.
A game after bungling Drummond’s minutes, Cheeks did much better. Sitting Drummond in the third quarter when the 76ers were intentionally fouling made sense, because several Detroit players were playing well offensively. There was no need to disrupt their rhythm and rely on Drummond’s free-throw shooting for scoring. Other nights, that decision might not be so easy, though. Also I wouldn’t have minded if Drummond chased his 20th rebound, but props to Cheeks for sitting the center late. A 30-20 game isn’t a “thing,” and a 31-19 game is just fine. The Pistons’ best player, but a flawed player, got 33 minutes in a resounding win. That’s enough.
- Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (6-11) at Detroit Pistons (6-10)
- Date: December 1, 2013
- Time: 3:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons were supposed to be contending for the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference standings at the very least. They are in the exact spot that was projected for them and yet it still feels as though they are underachieving.
They will host the Philadelphia 76ers today (early start!!) in the prestigious “6-Win Bowl Game” that features two teams with six victories. Sounds exciting right? Meh.
The 76ers have lost three straight games and sport one of the worst scoring differentials in the east. Three players can legitimately make the claim they are the top guy on the team (in no particular order): Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams and Spencer Hawes.
That’s it. Seriously, have a look at the names on the team. No one in the arena today will be quaking in their shoes because that trio will be on the floor. This is not to suggest they are scrubs, but rather that they are not elite or even All-Star caliber players.
The roster is a reflection of the direction of the organization. Philly never planned to contend for a postseason berth in 2013-14. They blew up the team during the offseason and made the decision they were going to tank. The upcoming draft class simply seems far too impressive and consequently, the 76ers want lottery balls.
And yet, they have the same amount of wins as the Pistons. I’m letting that one sit for a second.
16 games in, the Pistons are simply not good (small sample size alert!). They have one thing they can hang their hat on and that is offensive rebounding. Everything else is mystery worthy of Dan Brown’s writing skills.
Detroit lost their last game to the Los Angeles Lakers despite leading by double digits to start the fourth quarter. The Purple and Gold converted 20 free throws and also hit 14 triples in that game. That’s a testament to the Pistons’ inability to stop people and boy did it bite them hard in this instance.
To be fair, weird things happen over the course of an 82-game schedule and Wesley Johnson gashing an opponent for 27 points certainly qualifies as such. But still, Detroit has a talented frontline and thus, they simply should be better.
Josh Smith has All-Star talent while Greg Monroe may very well earn a max-level contract or something within its range. Andre Drummond actually has a chance to make the All-Star team this season provided that a few things break right for Detroit.
And yet, they have the same amount of wins as the tanking 76ers. The term “must win” is often overused in sports and also, if we are being realistic, it does not apply in this case for Mo Cheeks. Mind you, failing to beat a Sixers team at home that is trying to lose is certainly bad for team morale.
There is time to right the ship and that starts with beating teams that seem allergic to collecting wins (I realize the irony in that last sentence given that Detroit has a sub-.500 record). A quick glance at the schedule reveals that this has actually been the Pistons’ modus operandi in 2013-14.
They have feasted on the league’s worst and struggled with everybody else. Perhaps all they need to do is remain in character for this one and win going away…