Those two 3s gave him 20 points in that game. He scored 20 again, without needing the garbage-time buckets, against the Rockets. His 29 points in tonight’s loss at Minnesota marked the just the third time Prince has scored 20 points in three straight games in his career. The other times occurred in the 2008-09 season and the 2004-05 season. Thanks to Dan Feldman for that stat, and also this one:
In his last three games, Prince has scored 69 points, the fourth-highest three-game stretch of his career. He scored 73 points during a three-game span of the 2006-07 season – the last time he scored more in a three-game stretch. Prince last scored 69 points in a three-game span during the 2008-09 season, when he did it twice without overlap.
Prince’s health has to be the key factor to his resurgent production. He undeniably looks quicker, he’s looking to score in the paint more, he’s finishing stronger and he’s running the floor more. But he also looks like he’s finding a role in Lawrence Frank‘s offense. Last season, Prince had his normal numbers counting-stat wise. But he got there by having a high usage rate and dominating the ball — or, as the DBB guys refer to it, running the Isolayshaun offense. He’s scored points over this three game stretch using much more variety. He’s running the floor again, something he used to do with more regularity earlier in his career. He’s also moving without the basketball, an element that all but disappeared from his arsenal as he assumed more of a point forward role post-Chauncey Billups trade. Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey both found Prince on nice cuts to the basket. When he is catching the ball in the halfcourt, he’s making quick decisions with it. Against Minnesota, he caught and shot or caught and pump-faked then drove inside often. He also willingly kicked the ball back out to the guards when he didn’t have a play, a major difference from last year, when he would’ve just dribbled out and reset the offense himself, often causing the movement of his teammates to stagnate.
Many have been critical of the Pistons re-signing Prince. Joe Dumars’ defense for it is that he didn’t want to let a player with value walk away for nothing. If Prince continues to play this well, that decision will start to look less dubious.
Prince’s performance couldn’t save the Pistons from a loss, and that’s not a bad thing. The Pistons played a competitive game against an up and coming team with an established All-Star and an exciting young point guard. Their young players (minus Austin Daye) played primary roles in the game, took some lumps but also showed some things, and the team came away with a loss, which helps their lottery position. If the Pistons get a productive season out of Prince, continue to see young players in big roles and continue to lose, that’s really the best fans can hope for. The team will still get its high lottery pick and it will also have a veteran player to either use as a transition piece as young guys improve or serve as a trade piece.
Knight still trying to walk and chew gum
The good news for Brandon Knight against Minnesota: his assists were up (six), his turnovers were down (three), and he forced Ricky Rubio into 1-for-8 shooting.
The bad news is that while the running the offense portions of Knight’s game picked up, his shooting — which was strong when he was turning it over a lot — fell to 3-for-11, including several misses at the rim. Now, part of it is a product of Rubio. He’s already one of the better defensive guards in the league, and his length bothered Knight. But Knight also seemed to be slowing down and concentrating on protecting the ball and setting up others (both good things), which may have caused him to rush some shots he had more time on. He’s still a work in progress, but he seems to add new things to his game each time out and I’m excited to keep watching him grow.
Ben Gordon‘s performance wasn’t perfect — technical foul free throws continue to flummox him — but he continued to play solid defense (it helped that Luke Ridnour is mostly content to shoot jumpers, but still, Gordon was solid at that end of the court again) and with Minnesota’s offense finally picking it up in the third quarter, Gordon hit important shots to stop runs.
Midway through the quarter, the T-Wolves went on a two minute run and quickly cut a 13-point lead to five amidst a flurry of Pistons turnovers. Gordon got the ball and aggressively took Luke Ridnour off the dribble, getting off his patented runner in the lane to put the Pistons back up seven. Then, with three minutes to go in the quarter, the T-Wolves cut it to two, but Gordon answered with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to five.
Minnesota tied it with about 10 minutes left in the fourth, and Gordon hit another jumper to give the Pistons back the lead. Down one with seven minutes left, Gordon faked a shot and got all the way to the basket to put the Pistons back up.
Now, all of this was moot since the Pistons eventually ran out of steam and Minnesota won, but hitting those types of shots was a key element in Gordon’s game in Chicago. He’s still too inconsistent and streaky, but taking those shots he used to take all the time is a good sign. This is the most comfortable looking stretch he’s had as a Piston.
Not much success with Love
Part of the reason Ben Wallace was inserted into the starting lineup was to prevent Jonas Jerebko from picking up early fouls. The reasoning was solid. When Jerebko would pick up early fouls, he’d have to come out of the game, sit, and often come back into the game as his super-aggressive self.
The problem against Minnesota is that Jerebko still had trouble staying out of foul trouble (picking up five in less than 25 minutes) and Greg Monroe fouled out in 28 minutes. The problem, obviously, was Kevin Love. Love — who is seriously in fantastic shape and has become even more bouncy than he was a year ago — was able to establish position on the offensive glass at will. The Pistons couldn’t block him out, and their bigs picked up a lot of fouls trying to keep a body on him (Jason Maxiell also had four fouls). Wallace struggled guarding him when Love moved out to the perimeter. Wallace was hesitant to chase him out to the 3-point line, and although Love didn’t shoot that well, he’s also a great passer, so giving him space on the perimeter allows him to find open teammates. I didn’t expect the Pistons to do well against Love tonight, but the sheer amount of pressure he put on their entire frontcourt was amazing to watch.
The long national nightmare of Darko Milicic hanging around in the NBA should be just about wrapped up soon. I mentioned in the game preview that despite the fact that he’s on pace for a not so great 40-40 distinction, he’s still inexplicably a starting center in the NBA. Tonight, looking like he just rolled out of bed and like a pair of clippers haven’t touched the back of his neck in months, about seven minutes of playing time was enough. He missed two shots, looked out of shape and was the main reason Monroe eclipsed the point total he had against Houston (four) by scoring five points in the first :90 seconds. Milicic didn’t start the second half, and the T-Wolves clearly were a more fun and more fluid team to watch without him doing his John Cena jog up the court.