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Category → Game Review

Pistons get shellacked in yet another second half, this time by Raptors

Detroit Pistons 91 FinalRecap | Box Score 112 Toronto Raptors
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 5-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +3If you really care about individual matchups, no Piston “won” his more than Monroe. He missed a few bunnies early that were painful at the time. But given the second half, they didn’t really matter.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 31 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-9 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -10I still don’t understand why Smith couldn’t defend a shooter if his life depended on it.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-6 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -24In spite of ending up with 5 fouls, Drummond picked them up relatively late, so at least he was able to be in for much of the game. His help defense was good, but Valanciunas worked him over. Drummond kept biting on pump fakes that allowed Jonas to blow by him for uncontested dunks.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 6-19 FG | 7-9 FT | 3 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 22 PTS | -11Sadly, this is the best Jennings we’ve seen in a while. His big numbers were hollow, but at least they existed.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 30 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +2Caldwell-Pope had a huge first half. He was probably the most instrumental Piston in causing them to be ahead at the intermission. Unfortunately, he seems to be the Pistons who most consistently vanishes after the break.

Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4I’m not sure whether Harrellson gets his couple minutes because Cheeks wants him to play or because he doesn’t understand the concept of staggering.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4Did nothing in garbage time, who cares?

Charlie Villanueva, PF Shot Chart 11 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -11Villanueva was missing his shots, that makes him useless.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 26 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -11Singler has never been so invisible. You have to make your presence felt at some point if you play 26 min.

Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 14 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -21He missed too many shots, but I actually liked Bynum’s play. He hustled on both ends.

Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 4-13 FG | 6-8 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -12Stuckey looks like he still has some recovering to do.

Maurice Cheeks
Meshing the talents on this roster is probably a tougher task than most coaches face, but Cheeks is doing a terrible job. If there were some sort of Worst Coach of the Year award, Cheeks and Kidd would be in a stiff battle for it right now.

Detroit Pistons’ losing streak reaches season-worst five games, each defeat coming to losing team

Detroit Pistons 85 Final
Recap | Box Score
89 New York Knicks
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 32 MIN | 8-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | -15

Monroe was strong offensively, taking advantage a New York frontline that, lacking Tyson Chandler, is pretty unimposing. Defensively, Monroe struggled, but that’s nothing new. He sat with seven minutes remaining in the game, returning in the final seconds only to get pushed under the basket as the Knicks offensively rebounded their own missed free throw to seal the game. If Maurice Cheeks re-inserted Josh Smith after the reserves helped Detroit’s comeback, why didn’t Monroe get a real second chance?

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 40 MIN | 6-14 FG | 8-9 FT | 12 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 8 TO | 21 PTS | -8

For three quarters, Smith was horrific. He protected the ball as if it were covered in grease, coughing up eight turnovers, including seven live-ball giveaways. Smith got going late, scoring 13 of his points on five shots in the final 14:15 and defending better down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson helped Smith’s defensive turnaround, though. Anthony was giving Smith fits for much of the game, working off the ball on the perimeter and taking advantage of the Knicks’ strong ball movement. Late, the ball stagnated with Melo, and Smith is far too of a defender to struggle in those isolations. With 27 seconds left and the Pistons down only one after trailing by 17, Smith even took a charge on a Melo drive. But on the ensuing Detroit possession, after Jennings held the ball too long and erased much of the shot clock, Smith sized up Melo while also holding the ball too long and forced an airballed jumper. The possession, including the shot, was a mockery.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 36 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 17 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -14

Drummond played brain-dead defense, and unfortunately, this was only one example. Still, his physical profile almost makes it difficult for him to have a really bad game. Because he’s so big and agile and strong and sure-handed, he beasted on the glass and scored effectively inside.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 31 MIN | 2-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -11

Jennings shot very poorly, though it seemed his baskets came when the team really needed them (which is meaningless, but was just how it felt). He had a couple nice passes too, but this was not a good distributing day for him. Ultimately, despite a couple fine flashes, he shoulders the blame for a game in which the Pistons had sustained offensive ineptitude. Jennings gambled far too much defensively, without defending his man much, to justify the result.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -9

Caldwell-Pope’s lone basket was a fastbreak layup, and he was mostly invisible within the halfcourt offense. Caldwell-Pope defended fine, but Maurice Cheeks was giving Kyle Singler minutes at shooting guard just to keep Caldwell-Pope off the court.

Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0

Harrellson entered the game only when Monroe got his second foul late in the first half. A guaranteed contract obviously doesn’t get you playing time.

Charlie Villanueva, PF Shot Chart 10 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +12

Villanueva, a DNP-CD regular, didn’t enter the game until the Pistons trailed big in the fourth quarter. Detroit cut into the deficit while he was on the court, but it wasn’t really because of him. Sure, he made a shot here, a good pass there. He wasn’t bad, but he definitely didn’t drive the comeback.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +13

Singler went after loose balls, helping his own offensive cause in the process, and hit a big 3-pointer late. Not bad, but if he’s going to make a push for the starting lineup, which I really think could happen soon, he needs to raise his game a bit.

Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +7

The lobs to Drummond were nice. The rest was OK at best. This has sort of become a description of Bynum’s place on the team.

Chauncey Billups, SG Shot Chart 8 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +5

Billups is too far over the hill to make a habit of breaking off the offense to force his own shot, but he did it repeatedly tonight.

Maurice Cheeks

He took two timeouts within 1:40 of each other as the Knicks went on a 15-0 run in the third quarter. I guess Cheeks wanted to talk it over, but I didn’t see much change after the timeouts. When his team is struggling, Cheeks seems to have the philosophy of more intervention. More practices. More meetings. More timeouts. More, more, more. But is anything actually getting accomplished?

Pistons get destroyed in the second half, continue embarrassing run of losses

Memphis Grizzlies 112 Final

Recap | Box Score

84 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 8-17 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -8Monroe played a good game, even doing a solid job on defense in the first half. In the second half, well, no Piston did.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 6-17 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -18On offense, Smith took lots of stupid shots. On defense, he got burned outside the paint. Inside the paint, he’d do a decent job until failing to ever box anyone out and got beat for tons of second chances.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 36 MIN | 6-10 FG | 3-8 FT | 14 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -2Memphis played Drummond smart. They tied him up whenever he tried to make a post move. Meanwhile, Drummond did not play smart, getting into foul trouble (again), resulting in Cheeks stupidly yanking him early (again).

Drummond was pretty much the only good thing Detroit had going, he can’t lose it like that, especially with the technical he picked up on his way off the court.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 2-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -14All those assists look nice, but shooting 14% is unacceptable.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -9KCP isn’t good enough for his performance to usually swing a game either way, but he gave Detroit all they could ask for in this one.

Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -17Harrelson can’t seem to get many minutes of late. If that were because of smart big man staggering by Cheeks, I’d be pleased. Unfortunately, it’s probably because his D has been pretty weak since November.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -13Jerabko probably only saw the floor because of Singler’s foul trouble. He did what he was supposed to. No more, no less.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -18Singler was somehow on pace for more than 17 PFs per 48 minutes in this one. Normally, I don’t care how much bench players foul, but that was kinda crazy.

Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -17Bynum was the best Pistons PG in this game. He set an astonishingly low bar that nobody could beat.

Luigi Datome, SF 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3Datome only played meaningless garbage miutes.

Chauncey Billups, SG Shot Chart 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -21“Mr. Big Turnover” is washed up. The Pistons need Stuckey back.

Maurice Cheeks
The Pistons got off to a good start as the Grizzlies tried to bring the ball inside and the Detroit bigs shut them down.

But it couldn’t last and switching to a zone certainly didn’t help. Neither did pulling Drummond (or Singler). Why are coaches so worried about their players fouling out. The worst that can happen is that they come out of the game. And that’s what happens when you pull them out preemptively, anyway.

Pistons drop fifth game in six tries, barely hang on to playoff position

Washington Wizards 106 FinalRecap | Box Score 99 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 8-12 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +8Monroe played like a team’s best player. He called for the ball early and often and aggressively went into the teeth of the defense. You’d like to see him make some more of his shots, but this was the attitude so many have been claiming he is missing.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 43 MIN | 6-19 FG | 4-6 FT | 9 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 16 PTS | -1Smith has been playing better perimeter defense of late, but not in this one as any Wizard playing SF burned Detroit from beyond the arc.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 32 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-4 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -16Drummond once again put up a fabulous line, especially for his minutes. But his defense was not all that stout and, on a related note, he was picking up too many fouls.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 39 MIN | 5-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 0 REB | 14 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 15 PTS | +7Jennings played how we want him to, but it didn’t go well in this one. Those were good shots he was missing, but he still missed them. He didn’t play particularly turnover prone ball, but still got 6 of them. And his defense was no worse than normal, but Wall requires better D.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +8KCP had an incredible first half. He was the main reason the Pistons led after 24. He was good enough that, even after a complete dud of a second half, it was still a good game for him. But he did nothing, on either end, in that second half.

Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2Harrellson didn’t make any meaningful impact in 3 minutes.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 26 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -7Some players are referred to as “quietly putting up (whatever numbers)”. Singler must put his up very noisily, because he always makes a couple impressive plays and then I look at the stat sheet and it’s highly underwhelming.

Luigi Datome, SF 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -3The Pistons should have gone to the break up 12. Datome did a great job of getting past his defender on an inbounds play with a couple seconds on the shot clock. But when he got hacked, he missed both free throws. The Pistons needed those freebies from their best shooter (on paper) on a night when missing free throws was the primary reason for the loss.
Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 9 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -14Bynum got torched on D every moment he was on the floor.

Chauncey Billups, SG Shot Chart 12 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -15See Bynum above. Also, Billups missed his shots.

Maurice Cheeks
The Pistons looked much more prepared and played much better against the Wizards than they did in their last game. The Wizards are just playing really, really well these days. In spite of that, the Pistons might would have won if they just hit their normal, league-worst free throw percentage. And much as I’m not a Cheeks fan, I can’t put missed free throws on him.My main gripe is that he didn’t try putting KCP on Wall, who was torching all the lousy defenders (Jennings, Bynum, Billups) he did use.

Josh Smith benched for second half of Pistons’ ugly loss to Washington Wizards

Detroit Pistons 82 Final
Recap | Box Score
106 Washington Wizards
Greg Monroe, PF 24 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -26
Josh Smith, SF 18 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -18 pp f minus
Andre Drummond, C 29 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | -27
Brandon Jennings, PG 32 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 13 PTS | -22
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 16 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-1 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -6
Josh Harrellson, PF 23 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -1
Jonas Jerebko, PF 15 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +2
Charlie Villanueva, PF 13 MIN | 0-5 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 3 PTS | +2
Luigi Datome, SF 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -2
Kyle Singler, SF 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -18
Will Bynum, PG 27 MIN | 3-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -3
Chauncey Billups, SG 8 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -2
Rodney Stuckey, SG 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1
Maurice Cheeks

Orlando Magic pack the paint, frustrating Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond trio in deflating loss

Detroit Pistons 92 Final
Recap | Box Score
109 Orlando Magic
Greg Monroe, PF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -17

The Magic’s pack-the-paint strategy clearly bothered Monroe. He was so frustrated inside, he even showed more willingness to shoot his mid-range jumper, but that didn’t go so well. On defense, Monroe just looked tired.

Josh Smith, SF 22 MIN | 2-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -11

The Magic gave Smith no advantage near the basket, using the strong Tobias Harris and pressure from other bigs who didn’t fear leaving their man. Smith shot just 1-for-9 in the paint. He was tenacious on some defensive possessions, lethargic on others.

Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -20

Drummond got some decent looks inside, but he was just off target. He’s so big, I don’t think Orlando’s heavy presence in the lane affected him as much as it did Smith and Monroe, but it didn’t help. Drummond is such a talented offensive rebounder, though, it’s hard to shut him down. Unfortunately, Drummond’s defense was poor.

Brandon Jennings, PG 31 MIN | 7-16 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | -17

Jennings was very aggressive, which was needed tonight, because his teammates were stuck in the mud. He continues to produce on offense. As for defense, he had a nice steal that he turned into a fastbreak. Otherwise, Jennings took a pass on playing defense tonight.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 24 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -8

Arron Afflalo (23 points on 9-of-11 shooting) carved up Caldwell-Pope, even though Caldwell-Pope had a nice steal, block and deflection in the matchup. Caldwell-Pope was invisible on the other end of the floor, which beats detrimental. It’s the small victories.

Josh Harrellson, PF 24 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +5

Sweet pick-and-pop for a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, and that kick-started a solid individual offensive outing. Harrellson’s size allows him to clog the lane on defense, a valuable skill. But quicker bigs, or nearly any big determined to race him down the court, create problems.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 13 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +4

Jerebko hadn’t played more than five minutes in any game the last two-and-a-half weeks, and he responded exactly how you’d hope he would when given a chance. He played with good energy on both ends, bringing life to a dreary team.

Luigi Datome, SF 21 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -2

Datome took all his shoots in the fourth quarter, and I understand the game situation didn’t lend itself to inspired play, but it was like Datome was trying to his best impersonation of an inefficient gunner. Nick Young would be proud, but nobody else. Datome spent about three quarters of his playing time with only one of Detroit’s bigs, making him either a stretch four or combo forward most of his minutes. He worked hard to hold his own in one-on-one defensive assignments, but the Pistons got killed on the glass with Datome in the game.

Kyle Singler, SF 26 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -10

Singler got beat like a drum defensively. At least he moved well around the court, both in transition and the halfcourt, to make a few shots.

Will Bynum, PG 20 MIN | 8-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | -4

This is where Bynum comes in handy. With the Pistons down 19 points entering the fourth quarter, Bynum took over, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the final period. Turning Bynum loose lowers expected value but increases variances – an excellent tradeoff for a team already down so much. If Bynum leads a comeback, great. If he doesn’t, so what? The game was a likely loss, anyway. Tonight, Bynum did his job, but the deficit was just too great.

Rodney Stuckey, SG 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -5

Stuckey didn’t play in the second half after appearing to injure his shoulder. He stayed in for another couple possessions, including a turnover after looking uncomfortable dribbling. He quickly stole the ball back, a nice display of effort from a hurt player. Before that, Stuckey made a couple post-up turnaround jumpers and a layup and missed a few pull-up jumpers.

Maurice Cheeks

This was bound to happen to Cheeks. The Magic packed the paint to an extreme degree, a tactic I actually I thought more Detroit opponents would use. And it worked perfectly for them. When Smith, Monroe and Drummond played together, the Pistons’ offensive rating was an astonishingly bad 78.0. Those three couldn’t get any space to operate inside, and when they drifted to the mid-range or beyond, they predictably missed jumpers. Cheeks, adjusting his rotation to minimize the amount of time the trio shared the court, resorted to strange and ineffective lineups. Beyond tonight’s dismal result, it will matter how Cheeks adjusts to such extreme paint packing going forward, because I suspect this won’t be the last time the Pistons see it.

Pistons turn up defense after Maurice Cheeks focuses on it, rout Cavaliers

Detroit Pistons 115 Final
Recap | Box Score
92 Cleveland Cavaliers
Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +3

Monroe is at his best running hard down court and posting up a single defender. When not every defender has found his man, it’s harder to help on Monroe. But when operating in a more crowded post, a negative effect of the Pistons’ jumbo lineup, he’s more prone to struggles. Monroe provided more defensive resistance than usual tonight. He also made a mid-range jumper, but that’s not a big deal until he does so more consistently.

Josh Smith, SF 31 MIN | 10-18 FG | 3-3 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 25 PTS | +19

Smith got hot, making 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions late in the first half. That bolstered his strong interior scoring, though, of course, Smith bricked a few long jumpers for good measure. As a playmaker, Smith too often tried to thread the needle with his pass or dribble. Although that led to a few impressive plays, the overall risk outweighed the reward. The Cavaliers tried to challenge Smith’s liabilities as a perimeter, but that played right into Detroit’s advantage. Alonzo Gee (1-of-4 on 3-pointers) and Earl Clark (2-of-8 on 3-pointers) aren’t the player to punish Smith. In other situations, Smith defended well.

Andre Drummond, C 34 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +19

Drummond is fast for his size, and that got him a few open-court dunks. In the halfcourt, his size and hands make him such an easy target inside, and he finishes well, too. Add quality rebounding, and the total package begins coming together. Defense? Drummond provided that, too. Andrew Bynum (0-for-11, two turnovers) is no longer a good offensive player, but Drummond absolutely dominated him.

Brandon Jennings, PG 32 MIN | 6-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 4 REB | 13 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | +26

Jennings was aggressive looking for his own shot in the pick-and-roll, which should help the Pistons’ bigs going forward. It didn’t hurt that Jennings was converting his looks tonight, either. The point guard showed excellent court vision as the Pistons broke open the game in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Jennings skillfully doubled in the post to give Cleveland’s bigs trouble. Kyrie Irving (21 points on 14 shots) tore him up, but Irving will do that nearly everyone.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 17 MIN | 1-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2

Caldwell-Pope is a fine defender. He especially stands out on the Pistons, whose defense – especially by their guards – has been unimpressive. But when the rest of the team is defending better, as was the case tonight, he hardly makes an impression on that end. All that’s left is a bad shooter.

Josh Harrellson, PF 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Harrellson was effectively pulled from the rotation in favor of Luigi Datome. Harrellson played only late in each half, after Drummond picked up a foul in the first and after the game was effectively decided in the second. Put in position to help on Kyrie Irving a couple times, Harrellson fouled him once and allowed a mid-range jumper. Not a fair matchup, but about all we have to grade Harrellson on tonight. That and a quick catch and pass to Smith for one of Smith’s 3-pointers, so although none of it was significant, it wasn’t all bad.

Luigi Datome, SF 17 MIN | 6-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +4

Datome made one 3-pointer in five tries, but wow, was it beautiful. His was form perfect, and his release was quick. The arc he put on the shot was incredible. Then, it just splashed through the net. I see why people fall for his shooting, regardless of the results. He actually did a better job inside the arc, going toward the basket. His steal and fastbreak dunk in the final seconds was a nice moment for someone who delivered after not playing this much in more than a month.

Kyle Singler, SF 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +23

It seems like Singler is rebounding really well this season, but his rebounding numbers are down a little from last year. Is Singler secretly a good rebounder? He also hit both his 3-pointers, so definitely a good night.

Chauncey Billups, SG 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -3

All Billups’ shots were 3-pointers, and on his lone make, he looked like vintage Billups, sticking a shot in a defender’s eye. Otherwise, Billups just slowed the offense.

Rodney Stuckey, SG 31 MIN | 6-16 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +25

Stuckey finished poorly, making just 3-of-11 shots in the paint, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of his offensive contributions. The Pistons’ movement, player and ball, was better with him on the court, and it started with him moving and passing well. That gave his teammates better lanes to make cuts and passes themselves. Defensively, Stuckey was seemingly everywhere, collecting five steals.

Maurice Cheeks

As I’ve said before, it seems Cheeks does his most significant coaching between games rather than during them. Fox Sports Detroit reported during tonight’s telecast the Pistons focused on defense before this one. Because the game was played at such a fast pace, the final score underrates how well the Pistons defended tonight. Their defensive rating was 88.0, which would rank first in the NBA – by a wide margin – over the full season. The Cavaliers’ season-long offensive rating is just 97.4, 27th in the league, so this wasn’t the toughest opponent. But considering the Pistons’ season-long defensive rating is 104.1, 20th in the NBA, this performance was definitely stronger than usual. And aside from Stuckey, I can’t identify a single player whose individual defense greatly bested his usual level. The Pistons played excellent team defense, and given the timing, Cheeks deserves credit.

Dwight Howard has his best game since leaving the Magic as he overwhelms Detroit

Houston Rockets 114 FinalRecap | Box Score 97 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 26 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -1Monroe played better defense on Dwight Howard than any other Piston. That’s not saying much.
Josh Smith, SF 29 MIN | 8-20 FG | 3-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | -9Smith is looking to score every trip down the court.He’s not very efficient; but until someone else not named Jennings decides to force the issue, the Pistons need this from Smith.
Andre Drummond, C 29 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -17The things you think you can count on from Drummond are defense and rebounding. Howard moved Drummond around wherever he wanted and Drummond’s rebounding was decent at absolute best. Also, two of Drummond’s blocks were clear goaltends.
Brandon Jennings, PG 32 MIN | 2-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -7Jennings plays almost exactly the same every game. Sometimes a decent number of his shots go in, sometimes they don’t. Tonight, he couldn’t hit a thing.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 20 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -16No Piston defended well in this game. That makes it tough to grade out well for a Piston whose entire value is his defense.
Tony Mitchell, PF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-4 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +2Mitchell’s cameo was meaningless garbage time and his play inspired no reaction, positive or negative.
Josh Harrellson, PF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1Harrellson was put in to slow down Dwight. He didn’t, but he wasn’t given a real chance either.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2Jerebko’s cameo was meaningless garbage time and his play inspired no reaction, positive or negative.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 5 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -7Charlie came into the game and did what he was supposed to. He shot a lot and hit enough of his shots. But he contributed nothing more.
Luigi Datome, SF 13 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -4Gigi looked fantastic in this one. Too bad it was all too little, too late.
Kyle Singler, SF 31 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -1Singler was the only Piston who could keep up with the Rockets on the break.
Will Bynum, PG 23 MIN | 5-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -2Bynum went at the Houston defense. He briefly made it feel like the Pistons had a shot.
Rodney Stuckey, SG 23 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -24Stuckey played hard… on offense. He didn’t even try on D and he wasn’t that effective on O. Unacceptable.
Maurice Cheeks
I don’t know what Cheeks could have done differently in this one. Detroit just got torched by Howard. But he certainly didn’t make a positive impact.

Detroit Pistons blow 20-point lead then bench Andre Drummond just to ensure Charlotte Bobcats hold on for win

Charlotte Bobcats 116 Final
Recap | Box Score
106 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | -9Unlike Josh Smith, Monroe continues having issues dealing with lack of space inside, a downside of Detroit’s jumbo lineup. Still, he can use a nice spin move to get a good look in the paint at times. Monroe’s defense, ranging from lazy to ineffective, in the fourth quarter was instrumental in the Pistons blowing their 20-point lead. He’s never been a great defender, but he’s a good rebounder, so why was he not attempting to block out and allowing key Charlotte putbacks?
Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 41 MIN | 8-20 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -15-for 6 inside the restricted area, 3-for-14 outside it. Sight. Smith makes just enough jumpers to convince himself they’re good looks. He made his first shot tonight, an open long 2. On his second shot, he airballed a contested long 2. At least Smith was really hustling on defense, swarming all over the court to make plays. He wasn’t quite as strong locking up his man, tough.
Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 34 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-2 FT | 15 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 5 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -21Drummond got more post-ups than usual, and they yielded mixed results. But I love Drummond becoming more involved in the offense, and I’ll happily ride out the growing pains. Drummond is so big big and nimble, he can get point-blank looks over nearby defenders who barely bother him. He just needs to get more comfortable with his footwork and finishing, but the early signs of dominance are there. In the meantime, he’s still consistently contributing offensively by dominating the offensive glass. Drummond also used his size to his benefit defensively tonight. He held Al Jefferson to 4-of-14 shooting while guarding the Charlotte big man, including blocking three of Jefferson’s shots, but more on that later.
Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 37 MIN | 10-20 FG | 3-5 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 26 PTS | -10Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. That’s Kemba Walker repeatedly blowing by Jennings. Jennings had one great defensive play, a backcourt steal and layup, on Walker. Otherwise, Walker (34 points on 17 shots) abused him. Jennings scored well, did an OK job of setting up his teammates and protected the ball excellently. But his defense stunk.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 22 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -7It’s not totally Caldwell-Pope’s fault his teammates ignored him for most of the game, but because he can’t do more than spot up, he’ll rarely make huge contributions. Though Caldwell-Pope’s defensive effort was high per usual, Gerald Henderson gave him fits. Even on a good defensive play, getting a steal, Caldwell-Pope’s limited skill set hurt him right after. Bringing the ball upcourt through merely light traffic, he was stripped.
Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +11Harrellson missed three point-blank attempts on one possession, and then he caught fire, hitting five straight jumpers. He made an on open mid-range shot and then built from there, knocking down a couple 3s and semi-guarded shots. For a while, The Palace had Harrellson fever. He showed the diversity of his offensive game, driving and dropping for a Monroe dunk and cutting hard off the ball, though he dropped the pass. Defensively, got pushed too deep under the basket a couple times, preventing him from contesting drivers. But he ran the court hard to block a transition layup and had decent results stepping out to defend the pick-and-roll.
Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -7Singler made the Pistons’ ball movement pay off, hitting 2-of-3 3-pointers. Henderson gave him trouble, too, though.
Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -3Bismack Biyombo literally blocked most of Bynum’s shots. The Pistons point guard just didn’t seem to have enough lift tonight. Even his passes lacked lift. Bynum’s lob to Drummond wasn’t high enough, so Drummond had to lay in the ball rather than dunk it.
Chauncey Billups, SG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | -3Billups is a smart player. I know that. But he didn’t look it tonight, or at least he didn’t appear to realize his limitations. He hit a 3-pointer with a hand in his face, and then he forced a long 3-pointer while guarded and airballed it. He had nice drive and dish to Bynum for a corner 3-pointer, and then he tried to drive by Ramon Sessions, who was closely guarding him, and had ball stolen. The Pistons waste too many possessions trying to push their luck. I can’t be surprised when Jennings and Smith do it. Billups should know better.
Maurice Cheeks Lawrence Frank
Al Jefferson made three straight Charlotte shots midway through the fourth quarter, the first two over Drummond and the third over Smith. On the next Bobcats possession, Drummond, as he’d done most of the night, kept Jefferson from getting too deep. Jennings doubled anyway, and Jefferson kicked to Walker, who made a 3-pointer that put Detroit down 103-99 and capped a 9-0 Charlotte run. Cheeks Frank pulled Drummond after that sequence, even though, as noted above, Drummond had done an awesome job on Jefferson in aggregate. With Drummond on the bench, Jefferson abused Monroe on the next two possessions and then hit a ridiculous jumper over Smith on the third post-timeout possession, putting Detroit down 110-102. The final shot was unguardable, but Drummond would have certainly fared better than Monroe on the previous two. I don’t care about free throws. Drummond is the Pistons’ best player, and he was dominating the game’s most-pivotal matchup at that point. Detroit needs to ride him in that situation. There’s no excuse for Cheeks Frank to keep Drummond on the bench. I thought this problem ended after last season.

Brandon Jennings outguns Celtics (and Trey Burke and Brandon Knight)

Detroit Pistons 107 Final
Recap | Box Score
106 Boston Celtics
Greg Monroe, PF 34 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-5 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | +10

If Monroe had a jumper he trusted, he would have dominated this game (though he probably would have been guarded differently). The Celtics backed off, daring him to shoot even from short-mid-range. He refused, taking just one shot outside six feet. Boston’s defensive plan made it much harder for Monroe to get good looks inside, but he still used aggressive moves to get a few. Defensively, Monroe was strong. He was slow on some rotations, but he moved well enough that the Pistons could switch frequently on pick-and-rolls. He also effectively defended bigs physically, even if that led to a few fouls.

Josh Smith, SF 33 MIN | 8-18 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | -8

Does any other player miss more open shots? Opponents give him a lot of open jumpers, and he rarely hesitates to take them – and he misses most of them. Smith shot 4-for-4 in the restricted area and 4-for-14 everywhere else, though he hit a couple late long 2s that helped down stretch (and will likely further skew his perception of a good shot). Since getting inside against the Trail Blazers, Smith has wandered outside more often in these last two games. I hope that trend ends soon. Smith defended well on the ball, but his off-ball defense was more adventurous. Smith roamed and pressured passing lanes, but that also left his man open on the perimeter and took Smith out of rebounding position. On the plus side, Smith handled the ball a lot and had no turnovers.

Andre Drummond, C 38 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 16 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +14

Tim and I agree on most basketball issues, but one area where we don’t see eye-to-eye is how to best use Drummond defensively. Though Drummond has had flashes of defending the perimeter well, I don’t think that’s sustainable. Tim does, believing Drummond should handle that role in Detroit’s big lineups rather than Smith. Score one in my favor tonight. Drummond was often pulled outside the paint defensively, and he was largely lost. When protecting the paint, he did an excellent job, though. He also absolutely destroyed the glass on both ends. Drummond might be the NBA’s best rebounder.

Brandon Jennings, PG 40 MIN | 9-21 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 14 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 28 PTS | +12

Jennings is not afraid to shoot. That’s for certain. He pulled up for jumpers Sidney Deane would be ashamed to take. But Jennings made more than his fair share tonight, including 5-of-8 3-pointers. Avery Bradley is no defensive slouch, either. Jennings was just an offensive force tonight, clearing the bar he raised for himself by dominating the ball throughout many of Detroit’s possessions. Not all Jennings’ dribbling went toward finding himself shots, and he did a good job of getting his teammates good looks, too. The timing of Jennings’ breakthrough game couldn’t have been better. He’s underwhelmed this season, and his detractors wouldn’t have had to look past Wednesday night to see what could have been (Brandon Knight had 36 points, three assist and nine rebounds*) and what should have been (Trey Burke had 30 points, eight assists, seven rebounds).** But Jennings more than held his own in a mythical matchup that exists only in the mind of Pistons fans, and he wasn’t so bad in a real-life matchup with the Celtics, either.

*And eight turnovers. Some things never change.

**For the record, I would have drafted Burke and still completed the sign-and-trade for Jennings.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 27 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -1

Caldwell-Pope ran the floor hard to get good offensive looks, and he made a majority of his shots for the first time in two weeks. Caldwell-Pope did not get many opportunities defensively. Jordan Crawford took many awful shots before any defender could have an impact, positive or negative. When given a chance in the halfcourt, Caldwell-Pope fell short of his usual high defensive standards, but he anticipated passes to make a couple nice steals.

Josh Harrellson, PF 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -7

Harrellson tried to be active, but sometimes he was half a beat slow to react. He still made a few quietly helpful plays, but he wasn’t getting those deflections/tips/etc. as often as usual.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 5 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +4

Jerebko showed good energy on defense, and he converted an and-1 on a strong cut along the baseline. He looked a little too hard for his 3-pointer, missing both his attempts from beyond the arc in just five minutes.

Kyle Singler, SF 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 4-5 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -6

Singler made a comical blunder when he jumped straight up and came back down with the ball at the end of the first quarter. It became less funny when the Celtics threw an inbound with 0.2 seconds left, and Jared Sullinger tipped in the ball. Singler was poor as a spot-up shooter, making just 1-of-5 3-pointers, but he found moderate success as a cutter and running the break.

Will Bynum, PG 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -12

Bynum had more turnovers than field goals and assists combined. The offense just lacked flow when he played, though he played all five his minutes with a motley lineup. He made up for some of his point-guard issues with a steal and breakaway layup.

Chauncey Billups, SG 19 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -1

Billups looked resigned to the effects of his aging. All his shots were 3-pointers, and after initially seizing point-guard duties from Jennings after entering for Caldwell-Pope midway through the first quarter, Billups drifted into a complementary role.

Maurice Cheeks

The Celtics scored 42 first-quarter points on their way to building a 21-point lead. Their good ball movement and player movement left the Pistons frequently out of position to contest shots. But Detroit adjusted, and it became clear players gained a better understanding of their defensive assignments. However, Cheeks’ talk with Smith, what appeared as if it could be a pivotal moment in the season, has already stopped resonating.