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Celtics at Pistons: tonight’s best player is…

Essentials

  • Teams: Boston Celtics (23-53) at Detroit Pistons (27-49)
  • Date: April 5, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD+

What to look for

If a basketball game happens, but no one is there to see it, does it actually occur? We might find out tonight.

The Detroit Pistons will host the Boston Celtics tonight in the lone NBA contest featuring teams with losing records. Normally, that might be enough to get people to turn their attention to other ball clubs, but this night might offer more distractions than usual.

The Final Four will be played this evening, and it’s safe to say that many will at least have an eye on the college games. For those of you willing to bypass the NCAA in favor of Detroit and Boston, I offer an interesting way to look at tonight’s contest.

Ask yourself this when observing the game: which player is the best on the floor?

Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe could potentially be the answers to this question, but that’s a little too easy. Instead, we want to focus on four specific players that will be part of interesting head-to-head matchups.

Here are your candidates:

  • Brandon Jennings
  • Jeff Green
  • Josh Smith
  • Rajon Rondo

Rondo and Jennings have very different roles, but they will get opportunities to go at each other and run their respective teams. Based strictly off history, Rondo is the superior talent.

However, an argument could be made that Jennings has been better this season. Jennings has been a volume shooter more than anything, and he’s also been a decent setup man, which is on par with his entire career.

Rondo on the other hand hasn’t consistently demonstrated great synergy with his teammates, and he’s had trouble converting shots. Jennings and Rondo are both sub-40 percent shooters from the field, but Detroit’s point guard is putting up more points on average.

If asked last season which player was destined for a better 2013-14 season regardless of the surrounding pieces, most likely would have picked Rondo. And yet, the answer today is Jennings.

As far as the wings are concerned, a similar conversation comes up. Smith and Green share the same position, but have vastly different games. Green is supposedly a multi-faceted player capable of occupying both forward spots.

Early in his career, many could tell that Green had a little Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom in his game. Indeed, he offered athleticism, defense and even a bit of ball-handling.

Interestingly enough, that comparison is actually more accurate than many would probably want to accept. Green is a solid supporting player, but not someone that can be entrusted with carrying a huge offensive load on a nightly basis.

He struggles to create shots and isn’t much of a playmaker. Conversely, Smith has always had All-Star talent. Like Green, he offers comparable gifts to other hybrid forwards, but he’s left fans underwhelmed this season.

These four players make for an interesting game tonight, because either one of them could potentially dominate the contest and serve us with reminders about their talents.

They all tease us with a combination of developing skills that get athletes paid in this sport. In related news, each of them earns $8 million or more annually. Based strictly off the events of 2013-14, can we trust any of them for an 82-game schedule? Probably not.

But for a random night towards the end of the season? Absolutely.

I have Jennings as the best player tonight, and what’s your pick? Let us know in the comments.

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

 

Brooklyn avoids season sweep by Detroit

Detroit Pistons 104 FinalRecap | Box Score 116 Brooklyn Nets
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -13Monroe was the worst possible version of himself, getting torched by both Pierce and Teletovic while failing to exploit their lack of size.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -15Josh Smith took stupid shots… more of them went in than normal. Good job, I guess?

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 39 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -13Singler did a good job on Joe Johnson, producing a comparable line to the all-star.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 42 MIN | 10-14 FG | 3-7 FT | 18 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 23 PTS | +1As predicted, Drummond feasted on a pathetic rotation of bigs that had no business being assigned to deal with him.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 9 PTS | -5Jennings was just flat out awful. he perpetually looked a step slow, he was sloppy with the ball, and he made Shaun Livingston look like a star.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 24 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +2Jerebko has really made the most of the second half of this season. He legitimately looks like a rotation-caliber player. But the Pistons still have guys who need the minutes more.

Peyton Siva, PG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -7I am okay with Siva getting big minutes, but his only real asset is that he can help a team lose. Better to evaluate players who are still question marks.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +5KCP plays a very minor role on the team, even while on the floor. So he needs more court time than most to really evaluate. seven minutes doesn’t cut it.

Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 25 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -15Stuckey’s game couldn’t possibly get any more mediocre than this.

John Loyer
Teams usually tighten up their rotations when getting a couple more wins is significantly more important than player evaluation and health. Why is Loyer playing so few guys?Does this man have any plan at all?

The five priorities the Pistons should have for rest of season

At the Detroit Free Press, I laid out the five priorities the Pistons should have for rest of season:

1. Lose

2. Evaluate Peyton Siva

3. Develop Tony Mitchell

4. Develop Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

5. Get Chauncey Billups back on the court for the home finale

Click through to the Freep to get explanations of each.

Also, as a corollary to No. 1, here’s a chart showing the Pistons’ odds of keeping their pick based on lottery seed:

Detroit Pistons visit Brooklyn Nets

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (27-48) at Indiana Pacers (52-33)
  • Date: April 2, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Nets have unquestionably been a vastly superior team to the Pistons this season. Admittedly, they started the season by vying for the most disappointing team in the league with a 10-21 record. But in spite of the bumpy beginning, they have rebounded quite nicely by going 30-13 since then. They look fairly likely to finish with the fifth seed in the East.

The Pistons have gone the other way. They had a mildly disappointing 14-16 start to the season but have completely fallen off the rails since then, going 13-32. They are a near lock to finish with the eleventh seed in the East.

However, Detroit has improbably seemed to have Brooklyn’s number this season. So far, they are a perfect 3-0 with only one of those games being close. Tonight, the Nets try to avoid joining the Sacramento Kings as the only teams to be swept this year by a depressing Pistons squad.

This game should pit both teams’ strengths against the other’s weaknesses. Brooklyn is 28th in the league in defensive rebounding while Detroit is far and away the league’s best offensive rebounding team. Second place Sacramento is closer to 15th place Oklahoma City than to Detroit. Meanwhile, Detroit’s bottom ten three-point defense (both in percentage and overall makes) gets to match up against Brooklyn’s top ten three-point offense.

For the Pistons, watch for Drummond to dominate tonight. The Nets’ big men (Blatche, Plumlee, and Teletovic) should be overmatched against him. On Brooklyn’s side, Joe Johnson has been tearing it up ever since an entirely undeserved all-star berth. He has been averaging 18 points, 4 boards, and 3 dimes with 49/44/85 shooting splits over his past 23 games. We’ll see if any of Singler, Stuckey, or Caldwell-Pope can slow him down.

Much as the Pistons have suffered from serious defensive woes this year, the Nets are the sort of plodding, methodical team they should match up well against, as long as they can cover the three-point arc. And while the Nets can clog the lane against Detroit just like every other team does, they don’t have anyone to actually dissuade Pistons from attempting to score near the rim.

I am normally a strong believer in flukes when it comes to small samples like a 3-0 record, but this is actually a good match-up for Detroit. Still count on Brooklyn to come out with the win, but the Pistons could scare both their own fans and Brooklyn’s by threatening to pull it out.

Read about the Nets

Brooklyn’s Finest

ESPN ranks Tom Gores as NBA’s No. 24 owner

An explanation of the rankings over at ESPN.com:

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every owner, basketball decision-maker and coach from 0 to 10, and we asked the panel to tell us how important each role is. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team’s front-office management on its guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

These ESPN rankings haven’t treated the Pistons well, but owner Tom Gores walked away with the most flattering ranking as the No. 24 owner in the NBA.

Say what you will about Gores, but he hasn’t done anything terribly good nor bad in his early tenure. It appears he’s willing to spend money to make the team better, and  that’s good. It’s also abundantly clear that if a guy — say, Maurice Cheeks — isn’t performing up to Gores’ standard, he’s not going to be given a pass.

There are some who think that it’s Gores’ fault the Pistons are in their current predicament, but I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. It wasn’t unreasonable for him to demand that the team make the playoffs this season, but blame Gores for the Pistons acquiring Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings is a little extreme.

Honestly, I’m not totally convinced Gores knew who either player was prior to their arrivals in Detroit. Gores simply demanded the playoffs, and Joe Dumars decided the easiest route was to throw bags of Monopoly money at both Smith and Jennings.

They’ll eventually make the playoffs under Gores, and a big part of that logic is that Gores has shown that he cares. Think about it this way, at least he doesn’t operate the last-place owner on the list: Knicks boss James Dolan.

John Loyer voted NBA’s worst head coach

An explanation of the rankings over at ESPN.com:

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every owner, basketball decision-maker and coach from 0 to 10, and we asked the panel to tell us how important each role is. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team’s front-office management on its guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

Joe Dumars was voted the league’s worst general manager earlier this week, and now his interim coach John Loyer has joined him at the bottom of the barrel after being voted the league’s worst head coach.

It’s sort of unfair to classify Loyer with the rest of the guys on this list — he’s only in this position because of Maurice Cheeks‘ firing. Of course, Loyer hasn’t done a good job and that’s 100 percent why he’s in last place. It just seems like the Pistons have progressively cared less and less as Loyer’s tenure has chugged on.

After topping the Spurs in his coaching debut, everything fell apart for Loyer. The team never looked any different or better as their record dropped to 6-19 under Loyer.

Here’s the real question: Would a full season of Cheeks have ranked any higher?

Joe Dumars, Pistons’ front office voted among league’s worst

An explanation of the rankings over at ESPN.com:

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every owner, basketball decision-maker and coach from 0 to 10, and we asked the panel to tell us how important each role is. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team’s front-office management on its guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

The Pistons have endured a disastrous season, and being ranked poorly in any capacity shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. With a dysfunctional roster, dysfunctional coaching situation and (apparently) lame-duck GM, the Pistons sit comfortably in the cellar of ESPN’s ranking of the league’s best and worst run teams.

Joe Dumars was ranked dead-last at No. 30 in the front-office executive rankings, which is surprising to no one. Dumars seemed to have regained some of his magic last season when he acquired Jose Calderon and freed up a ton of cap space by moving Tayshaun Prince. But then, of course, he blew all of that dough on Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

The rest, as they say, is history.

What’s better is that Dumars’ former right-hand man, John Hammond, is ranked one spot ahead of him at No. 29. Currently the Bucks GM, Hammond helped Dumars build the Pistons 2004 title team and looked to have put together a roster mediocre enough to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference.

Instead, the Bucks are the worst team in the NBA despite Philadelphia’s recent 26 game losing streak.

While Dumars was ranked last in the GM rankings, the Pistons front office was actually ranked 27th ahead of the Bucks and, of course, the Knicks. It’s worth noting that three of the five teams in the Central Division are ranked in the bottom four here, and that the Spurs rank first in both categories because they’re the best-run franchise in all of sports.

The third and final set of rankings, coaching, will be released on Friday. It’s probably safe to assume interim head coach John Loyer will be slotted comfortably near the bottom of the rankings, too.

Remedy for Pacers struggles? The Pistons

Detroit Pistons 94 Final

Recap | Box Score

101 Indiana Pacers
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 31 MIN | 6-21 FG | 5-6 FT | 16 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +6Tonight’s game featured a lot of Monroe’s signature move: the post-shot scream. Monroe was active on the glass and active offensively, but if you take away his 3-for-5 start, he shot just TWO FOR FIFTEEN the rest of the way. He could have taken 15 jumpers and been better. I agree Greg, arghaahhh.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 9-20 FG | 3-7 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | -11So, remember how Monroe was great in the first quarter and horrible the rest of the way? Josh Smith joined the party, too! Smith made 6-for-11 shots in the first quarter, and fizzled the rest of the way. His poke-away steal and subsequent diving bounce pass to Drummond was actually really great, though.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 39 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +3It’s tough to watch Singler on nights when his jumper isn’t falling, but those nights are exacerbated when he’s forced to guard a guy like Lance Stephenson. Say what you will about Stephenson’s playground style, but he had his way with Singler.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 31 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-6 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -5Drummond’s as automatic a double-double as you’ll find in the NBA today. He did a good job overcoming two fouls within the first eight minutes of the game, and his defense was solid around the rim. Fourteen rebounds is nice, but he was competing for boards with the league’s worst rebounding center in Roy Hibbert.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +2This really wasn’t a bad effort from Jennings. His hailmary shots went down for the most part, and he was a big reason the Pistons had 16 fastbreak points and 17 points off turnovers. But he dribbled right into George Hill’s hands with just under two minutes to go before committing a dumb off-the-ball foul to give Indy a free throw in the final minute. Maybe that deserves an A? I dunno anymore, this all blends together.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +6He went through the motions, missed a three and his night was over by halftime.

Charlie Villanueva, PF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -6Charlie was just so excited that his UCONN Huskies are playing in the Final Four that he tackled Hibbert — a former Big East great himself — while he was trying to tell him.

Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -9Bynum had a few good drives to the basket, but he wasn’t really on the same page as the rest of the Pistons tonight.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -5Nice alley-oop to Drummond in the second quarter. Other than that, nice job cheering from the bench.

Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 32 MIN | 6-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -16Stuckey was efficient offensively and passable defensively, so par for the course. However, I thought about this during the game, if you’ve got to sign either Stuckey (say, for 3-years, $20M) or Evan Turner (say, for 3-years $30M) who do you pick?

John Loyer
The Pacers have been engulfed in a horrible slump recently, and tonight was the first time they scored 100 points in a game since… wait for it … the last time they played the Pistons on March 15! Also, if you’re interested in seeing the Pistons season in a nutshell, check out Loyer’s response to Paul George’s damn-near-half-court shot.

Pistons at Pacers

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (27-47) at Indiana Pacers (52-33)
  • Date: April 2, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Indiana Pacers will be the No. 2 seed tonight when they enter the contest with the Detroit Pistons.

Indiana owned the best record in the league throughout much of the season, but they have stumbled in the second half. The Pacers won 40 of their first 52 games, but the All-Star break seemed to slow them down.

Indiana is only 12-11 since All-Star weekend, mostly because the defense has slipped. Initially, the Pacers looked like the best defensive team in league history – yes, better than the 2004 Detroit Pistons – given how easily they shut down opponents.

Frank Vogel’s unit was beating up teams despite a somewhat mediocre offense because the defense was essentially elite. Provided that his players maintained that level of commitment and excellence, the team had a shot at making the NBA Finals.

However, they have regressed on both ends. The offense has fallen apart, and the defense has clearly seen better days. Indy has had the fifth best defense in the league since mid-February per NBA.com.

That’s hardly a death sentence, but the offense has fallen off a cliff during the same time span. As a reference point, it’s been slightly better than the Philadelphia 76ers’ offense, which ranks in the bottom of the league since the All-Star break, according to NBA.com.

The issue is the team’s attitude as David Aldridge noted over at NBA.com:

When the Pacers play against really good defenses like Miami and Chicago, the ball moves from side to side, inside-out, and the Pacers look like the championship contender they are. But when they play against less celebrated defenses, the ball too often sticks. And [Paul] George, too often, is believed to be the main culprit.

This was on full display earlier in the week against the San Antonio Spurs, and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst captured the details:

[Roy] Hibbert, frustrated by a lack of touches recently, forced some shots. George, who has been criticized for not acting like the superstar he is, tried too hard to take over and found himself going 1-on-3 as he tried to will himself into making plays in what turned out to be futile second half.

The Pacers must now find a way to bounce back, otherwise they will be in danger of losing a little more ground in the standings. Perhaps a matchup with the Pistons will help them get out of their funk, but then again, it’s entirely possible that their issues will be exposed yet again.

The Pistons have one of the worst defenses in the league, and Indiana has had issues against these types of teams because of their willingness to be one-dimensional against them.

Also, let’s not forget, Detroit is one of the five teams that actually secured a victory in Indiana this season, and that was when the Pacers were playing at the top of their game back in December.

Detroit used a 15-rebound edge to beat Indy on their home floor. To be fair, Detroit is every bit as different now as Indiana. The Pistons have seemingly given up on the season, which gives the Pacers an opportunity to right the ship.

Still, it feels like this game could be better than anticipated when looking at the teams on paper.

Read about the Pacers

Eight Points Nine Seconds

Josh Smith infuriates and then infuriates all over again

Milwaukee Bucks 111 Final
Recap | Box Score
116 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 40 MIN | 12-21 FG | 4-6 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 28 PTS | +19

Like the loss to the 76ers on Saturday, Monroe began the game with good effort. Unlike Saturday, it didn’t wane. Players have more control over their attitude than they’re sometimes given credit for. To whatever degree the Pistons are tanking or losing unintentionally, players can choose not to be infected by the losing. Monroe played hard, showing his pride couldn’t be overcome by the problems around him.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 11-19 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 26 PTS | -1

Smith played terribly for the game’s first 42.5 minutes. He shot 1-for-6 outside the paint and defended even worse. Cutters easily surged by an idle, ball-watching Smith for easy shots at the basket. At one point, Smith found himself in position to defend Jeff Adrien inside. Rather than contest the shot, Smith just jumped on Adrien’s back. Easier to watch Adrien shoot free throws than sustain defensive energy for even two seconds. Smith didn’t grab a single rebound in the first 42.5 minutes, either. He looked like he had given up on the season, not to mention this game. Then, suddenly, he didn’t. With the Pistons down six with 5.5 minutes remaining, Smith took over. He shot 6-for-7, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers, down the stretch with his 15 points in that span leading the Pistons to victory. He even grabbed a rebound.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 28 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +2

The Pistons’ point guards did a good job looking for Singler spotting up behind the arc, where he shot 2-of-5. Singler also helped himself by crashing the offensive glass.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 28 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +23

Drummond played well while he was on the court, but he must avoid careless fouls. When the Pistons care more about winning next season, they’ll need their best player on the court.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 13 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +6

Jennings does an excellent job of getting the Pistons into transition and semi-transition, and then he does a good job of making plays in that format. I can only imagine how much more brutal the Pistons’ offense would be if they played in a slower halfcourt system. Even a point guard more adept at running an offense would struggle to make a team with so little floor spacing work in the halfcourt. He does just enough so you can’t say the Pistons would be better with Brandon Knight (25 points on 7-of-21 shooting, nine rebounds, seven assists and zero turnovers). For now.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 11 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3

Jerebko was mixed bag defensively – fouling because he didn’t move his feet quickly enough and rebounding because he did – but his offense was counterproductive.

Charlie Villanueva, PF Shot Chart 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -11

Sometimes stats like this can be misleading, but I assure you this one accurately reflects what happened on the floor. With Villanueva in the game, the Pistons grabbed as many rebounds as they allowed dunks (four).

Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -1

Bynum’s assist total is not as impressive as it seems. Passing to Smith and hoping he makes a jumper is not a dependable way to facilitate the offenses, but it worked tonight. Bynum also received a couple questionable assists, getting credit after passing once to Stuckey and once to Monroe and then watching them drive for a basket.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -12

After shooting 1-for-4 in the first half, Caldwell-Pope disappeared in the second half. His confidence seems to have regressed. His defense was not good, either.

Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-1 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +3

Stuckey got to the basket early, making a couple short shots. Then, he settled for jumpers.

John Loyer

For most of the game, many Pistons looked like they’d quit. But because the Bucks are so bad, Detroit was still within striking distance late. At that point, it’s not hard to summon the energy needed to win down the stretch, which the Pistons did. What was Loyer supposed to do? He put Smith back in the game, which seemed as likely as any move to get the loss. It just didn’t work.

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