Here are the defensive sequences that preceded that move: Kevin Seraphin missed a dunk; Kevin Seraphin made a dunk; John Wall drove in for a lightly contested layup; Seraphin made a short sweeping hook shot. On offense, Monroe threw a bad pass resulting in a turnover and committed a loose ball foul. All of that occurred in roughly two minutes, and Monroe was clearly a step slow on D in that stretch.
It wasn’t surprising that Lawrence Frank pulled Monroe there. It was pretty surprising that he never put him back in. On the one hand, I’ve been OK with Frank occasionally benching Monroe and Brandon Knight at times this season when their defense, effort or focus wanes some, and Monroe’s clearly did there. On the other hand, Monroe had 18 points (7-for-10 shooting) and 7 rebounds at that point and was basically unguardable. He had a bad stretch, but getting benched for the rest of the game seems like a heavy price to pay for a sloppy stretch.
On another hand (do I still have hands left to use?), BEN WALLACE!
Wallace not only unsurprisingly brought the requisite defensive intensity Frank was hoping his young center would display more of, he provided the above screen grab after Wizards coach Randy Wittman employed the hack-a-Ben strategy late in the game. Wallace knocked down his first four free throws after the Wizards started intentionally following him and ended up hitting 5-for-10 overall (hey, 50 percent is not bad considering he was below 30 percent on the season coming in). Wallace finished with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. AP reporter Dave Hogg summed up the performance pretty nicely on Twitter:
Someone should show Dwight Howard the video of Ben Wallace busting his ass for the last 18 minutes of that game.
It is hard to argue against big minutes for young players as the Pistons finish the season. Letting them play through mistakes can often be a good learning tool. But the Pistons are also in a unique position in that they have veterans like Wallace who are tough, smart and professional. Wallace isn’t playing to try and take Monroe’s minutes, he’s playing trying to set an example for the rest of the team to follow. There’s occasionally value in sitting a player like Monroe when his effort wanes some in favor of a player like Wallace whose effort NEVER wanes. Seriously, he’s amazing.
And you can’t even make the argument that sitting Monroe gave the Pistons a better chance to win. Monroe is clearly their best player. Benching him actually gave Washington a better chance at stealing the game. So the Pistons were able to play a veteran playing as hard as he possibly could, let their entire team watch how Wallace went about things tonight and (if Washington could’ve cooperated by not air-balling layup attempts) worsen their chances for a win in the never-ending pursuit of lottery balls. And people say the Pistons don’t know how to tank correctly.
John Wall John Walls Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight no-showed on offense and defense tonight. He had a tough matchup with fellow Kentucky product John Wall, but he’s battled in tough matchups at other times in the season. Knight couldn’t stay in front of Wall when they were matched up on defense. No real shame in that, Wall is a tough cover. But Knight compounded it by shooting poorly on offense and failing to make plays for others too. Knight had one assist and four turnovers (compare to Wallace, who had 3 assists and 1 turnover) and formed a sloppy starting backcourt with Ben Gordon, who contributed four turnovers of his own. Gordon made up for it a bit by hitting six of his 13 shots.
Rodney Stuckey is back (briefly)
Rodney Stuckey returned from injury to put up nice numbers — he had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting with three assists in 18 minutes. He took care of the ball better than the starting guards and played better defense. Unfortunately, he also did his Jonas Jerebko impersonation, getting a bit too aggressive and fouling out in just 18 minutes. He didn’t appear to have any lingering affects from his injury though, which was good.