Pistons keep loosing, rotation keeps getting shorter

Another game, another fourth-quarter collapse, and I fear the Detroit Pistons are perilously closer to imploding as a team. In what has become standard operating procedure, Detroit had a lead in the final frame, only to go completely cold and disjointed, eventually falling to the Atlanta Hawks 94-85.

It looked like this game might be different. They looked lightyears better than they did the previous night against Boston and it seemed like everyone was in sync with one another. A top of the key Tayshaun Prince 3-pointer put the Pistons up 81-76 with 6:13 to go.

In the next six minutes of the game, the Pistons scored two points.

The team started taking bad shots, making dumb fouls, not communicating on defense and committing turnovers, which they had to that point limited. Ben Gordon couldn’t get good looks and nobody else was helping on  offense. Greg Monroe, who played quite a nice game for the Pistons, made some big mistakes on offense and defense, most critically in a three-minute span where he allowed Al Horford to score  on three consecutive possessions.

The Pistons again suffered defensive breakdowns in the paint, allowing the Hawk big men ZaZa Pachulia, Horford and Josh Smith shoot a combined 23 of 31 with 21 rebounds and three blocks. Smith led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks and was a big component of the Hawks scoring 28 fast break points.

Detroit was led by Ben Gordon, who continued his hot shooting until cooling off considerably in the fourth quarter. He ended the night with 22 points. Tracy McGrady played his best game in a Piston uniform, scoring nine points and leading the offense through much of the  second half as Rodney Stuckey was mysteriously bench four minutes into the third quarter and didn’t re-enter the game.

While Stuckey only played 13 minutes on the night, a seemingly healthy Jason Maxiell didn’t touch the floor. Combine that with injuries to Jonas Jerebko, Terrico White, Richard Hamilton and Will Bynum and the Pistons rotation is getting spread dangerously thin. By my count four players (Stuckey, Prince, McGrady and Austin Daye) played point guard tonight.

In the loss the silver lining is once again Monroe, who was extremely active despite being overmatched on both ends of the court. He made some mistakes and still can’t finish at the rim (3-9 on the night, including missing some easy putbacks), but he fought hard.

The play of the night was Monroe leaping through two Hawks to grab a rebound as he fell to the floor. It is the kind of play that can quickly earn you the respect of your veteran teammates. Monroe ended the night with seven points, eight rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.

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