Flash back 11 days. The Pistons were a miserable 14-25. But they beat Boston that night to begin a six-home stand. It seemed to be the spark Detroit needed. Playoffs, here we come.
Capped by last night’s 91-86 loss to the Magic, the Pistons dropped their final five games in the home stand. The game was close, and the Pistons played pretty well against a good team.
But they’ve had plenty of moral victories this season, and none of them careened into sustained quality play. This one won’t be different.
The season is shot. The Pistons aren’t very good, and only the Spurs have more road games remaining than Detroit (20).
Jonas Jerebko steps up
When Jonas Jerebko checked into the game between Richard Hamilton free throws with 1:35 left , Tayshaun Prince looked over his shoulder to see if Jerebko was replacing him.
He wasn’t – for now.
On a night Tayshaun Prince (12 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a team-best plus-2) had his best game since the season opener, Jerebko was better.
Starting at power forward and playing 34 minutes while Charlie Villanueva sat with back spasms, Jerebko had 16 points and nine rebounds and made a mark with hustle.
He’s making his offensive game more diverse than grabbing offensive rebounds and setting screens, too. Jerebko has become a pretty good spot-up 3-point shooter, making 2-of-3 last night.
I still think he’s better as a small forward, but he definitely made an impact at power forward yesterday.
On their final meaningful possession, the Pistons looked lost.
Trailing by three with nine seconds left, Detroit inbounded the ball to Ben Gordon. Gordon rose for what appeared to be a 3-point shot twice, only to pass to Prince both times. The second pass was intercepted by Matt Barnes.
Where was the fearless Gordon who torched the Celtics in the playoffs last year? I was counting on him to the Pistons’ go-to guy at the end of tight games.
Questionable defensive strategy
Orlando made 10-of-22 3-pointers, which is hardly surprising. The Magic have made the most 3-pointers in the NBA and done it with the ninth-best percentage.
But Orlando’s strong showing from the perimeter had a lot to do with the Pistons, too. Detroit allows its opponents to make 36.2 percent of their 3-pointers, seventh worst in the league.
Initially, I thought the Pistons had been slow to close out on outside shooters. But I’m starting to re-think that. Detroit might be sagging farther inside than most teams to prevent closer shots by design.
Of shots inside 10 feet but not at the rim, the Pistons opponents have made just 43 percent. Detroit’s defense ranks 13th-best in the league for that location, by far its best area in terms of defensive ranking, according to HoopData.