The Pistons blew a big lead and dropped their opener to the New Jersey Nets 101-98, allowing the Nets to go on an 11-3 run to end the game. Detroit was actually looking good and appeared to be executing in every phase of the game well into he fourth quarter — and then New Jersey turned to the Hack-a-Ben strategy with just over four minutes remaining and the tides quickly turned.
Wallace managed to make his first but air balled the next two and missed badly on a fourth and all of a sudden the Pistons offense was stalled and the team was searching for answers. Coach John Kuester removed Wallace and inserted Jason Maxiell and an undersized Detroit team got even smaller.
They were trying to survive with a lineup consisting of Maxiell at center, Tayshaun Prince at power forward, Richard Hamilton at small forward, Ben Gordon at shooting guard and Rodney Stuckey at the point. Not a lineup I want to see much of going forward.
The Pistons were able to ride out the storm behind a lot of iso looks for Tayshaun Prince against Terrence Williams, and when Wallace re-entered the game with two minutes remaining, Detroit was leading 95-88. But the Pistons couldn’t get back into any offensive rhythm and seemed disjointed and discombobulated the rest of the game.
With Detroit up two and needing a defensive stop, they appeared to succeed as Rodney Stuckey was able to jar the ball loose as Devin Harris drove into the lane. But in the scrum the ball was kicked out to a salivating Anthony Marrow who launched a 3-pointer to put the Nets up one, a lead they would never relinquish.
The Nets were led by Brook Lopez who notched 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks and absolutely abused both Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell throughout the night. Devin Harris chipped in 22 points and nine assists and really turned it on in the third and fourth quarters when Wallace was on the bench for Detroit and the middle of the lane really opened up. In other words, the Pistons really missed Jonas Jerebko. If he was able to play tonight, I think the Pistons would have easily walked away with the victory.
It was a surprising end to a game that, as a Piston fan, you felt pretty good about for three-quarters of the contest. Sure there were problems, but nobody thought this Pistons team was without flaws.
Charlie Villanueva was abused on defense, but was able to respond with some clutch 3-pointers that stretched the defense and allowed Detroit to space the floor. Rodney Stuckey started very strong with 9 points and seven assists in the first half, but couldn’t get untracked in the second half as other players initiated the offense and Stuckey was basically a forgotten man. Ben Gordon scored 12 on 5-of-6 shooting and although he failed to get in the scoring column, an obviously hobbled Tracy McGrady kept the offense flowing and he was able to deliver some excellent passes to teammates.
In the end though, the Pistons simply missed too many shots from the free-throw line (16-30), got badly outrebounded in the second half and gave up 48 points in the paint. Austin Daye struggled trying to play power forward, and only managed to grab three rebounds and score four points in 21 minutes. However, he got good looks, made quality decisions with the ball, but he just couldn’t knock his shots down. And on a personal level, I was disappointed that rookie center Greg Monroe was saddled with a DNP-Coaches Decision, especially when the Pistons were struggling on offense and desperate for rebounding and size in the fourth quarter.
Fellow top-10 rookie Derrick Favors didn’t get much burn in the second half, but he looked like a beast for a chunk of the second quarter when matched up against Villanueva, quickly putting up eight points and seven rebounds.