Dominant shot-blockers Kyle Singler and Greg Monroe not enough to lead Pistons past Rockets

Detroit Pistons 82 FinalRecap | Box Score 96 Houston Rockets
Jason Maxiell, PF 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | 0After a poor game against the Thunder last night, Maxiell was back to his reliable self. He wasn’t good, wasn’t bad. Solid rotation minutes.
Tayshaun Prince, SF 30 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | -6Prince got off to a good start with eight early points, but couldn’t really sustain it. He shot the ball well and, early on, his length on defense was bothersome to James Harden.
Greg Monroe, C 32 MIN | 4-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -8As tarsier pointed out in the comments, Monroe has suddenly become a pretty decent shot-blocker. It’s still a small sample size, but with two tonight, he’s averaging more than a block per game through seven games. That’s certainly better than he’s shown his previous two seasons.
Brandon Knight, PG 35 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 16 PTS | +3Knight shot well, passed well and defended Jeremy Lin well. His five turnovers are the only thing that prevents this from being an A.
Rodney Stuckey, PG 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | -17Stuckey continues to seriously cut down his 3-point attempts. And by ‘cut down,’ I mean ‘never shoot them ever.’
Austin Daye, PF 6 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +9Austin Daye got in in garbage time and knocked down both of his shots, including a three. He is far out of the rotation, so minutes aren’t a guarantee for him. But tonight, unlike many times last season, when he got a brief chance, he made the most of it. And the Pistons still need someone who can shoot, so if he can get going, even someone who has struggled as much as he has can never fully be counted out of this rotation.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 16 MIN | 3-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -18Jerebko shot a little too much from the perimeter for my liking, but Jerebko continues to be great defensively, particularly at forcing turnovers. He had two steals in 16 minutes tonight. He came into the game averaging 2.3 per 36 minutes, which is already a great number that will only increase after tonight’s performance.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 9 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +7He shot poorly but two rebounds! In just nine minutes! That’s eight per 36 minutes! A respectable number for a near 7-footer! Progress!
Kyle Singler, SF 23 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -21Singler was bad this game, but glancing at his line, he had four (!) blocked shots. I thought that was a fluke, but looking at his per-36 minutes numbers, he’s averaging more than a block per-36. I don’t think it’s a fluke, watching some of his plays tonight. He’s obviously not a guy who is going to jump out of the gym and erase shots at the rim like Drummond. But his slowness on the perimeter actually helps him get blocks. He gets beaten on first steps pretty often on perimeter players, but he’s athletic enough and long enough that he recovers well and is really good at sneaking over the top of shorter players who beat him and getting a hand on their shots.
Khris Middleton, SF 9 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +7Middleton saw his first action tonight and he was also promising, particularly his two steals. I don’t think there’s a rotation spot that he could push forwith the roster as it is, but he’s quick in passing lanes and his shot still looks nice.
Andre Drummond, C 20 MIN | 2-2 FG | 3-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -9The Pistons, including Drummond, struggled to keep the very active Omer Asik off the glass. Drummond whiffed a couple times in the first half trying to get a body on Asik, one of which led to an offensive rebound, but that’s not a huge deal. Drummond continues to be the team’s second best big man and obviously is ready for more than the limited backup role he’s playing. Hopefully returning home and getting extra practice time is the final push Frank needs to ratchet up Drummond’s minutes. Hopefully.
Will Bynum, PG 13 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -17Bynum didn’t shoot well and didn’t play with much energy in this game. He did, weirdly, also block a shot tonight in a game in which the Pistons blocked nine.
Lawrence Frank, HEAD COACH I was happy Frank went to the Drummond-Monroe combo in the first half and disappointed he didn’t go back to it in the second half, although I think the game quickly getting out of hand and Frank just wanting to end this disaster of a road trip played a role in that. Frank didn’t coach a great game tonight, but the Pistons did have a better gameplan against Lin, putting Prince on Harden more in the first half worked OK for stretches and he gets a bit of credit for those things.

Monroe/Drummond watch

After last night’s successful Monroe/Drummond pairing, Lawrence Frank went back to it in the first half tonight. Monroe and Drummond played four minutes together in the second quarter. The results weren’t as dynamic as they were last night, but still … Drummond and Monroe were obviously two of Detroit’s best five players tonight. So logically, it makes no sense that they’d play only four minutes together. Rationalizing a little, Frank did empty the bench in the fourth quarter and gave Daye, Villanueva and Middleton a crack at some extended playing time, so maybe if Houston hadn’t gone on a 22-1 run in the third and fourth quarters, they would’ve played more together. At least that’s what I’m telling myself so that this phenomenon doesn’t drive me crazy.

The defense has potential

Drummond getting  a significant role is obviously key to this, but the Pistons had other small positives defensively in this game. Knight’s individual defense on Lin was good. Knight is a guard with the quickness, length, smarts and size to be a good defensive player. For whatever reason so far in his career, he just hasn’t been. Hopefully tonight is a step towards him figuring that out.

Jerebko is a terror in the passing lanes. He’s constantly causing deflections and getting steals, which is a case to get him more minutes. The Pistons are awful as a halfcourt team. Steals lead to transition opportunities, and the Pistons could definitely use the easy shots.

Prince isn’t a lockdown, all-defense team type of player anymore, but as he showed for stretches in the first half against Harden, he’s still smart and bothersome on D and his length can still cause guys to take shots they’re less comfortable with.

Monroe has blocked five shots in his last two games. The Pistons as a team are averaging six per game, which puts them in the top half of the league. Collectively, the Pistons have a lot of good defensive tools — guys with long arms, fast guys, a point guard who has good size for his position and a prototypical young shot blocker who should be anchoring things soon. Very soon. Please soon.

The offense doesn’t

This probably won’t go over well in the comments, but I’m essentially giving Frank a pass this season when it comes to offense. He just doesn’t have the tools for this team to succeed offensively. With no one who is an elite 3-point shooter, teams have zero reason to pay attention to Pistons players on the perimeter. Pretend you’re an opposing coach. Name one guy the Pistons could put on the floor who you would worry about leaving if it meant you could throw extra defenders at Monroe. In fact, there are guys on the Pistons who are way too comfortable taking shots they have no business taking (looking in Stuckey’s direction) that Houston was all but begging the Pistons to shoot threes tonight.

Someone commented in the game thread that the Pistons look like they moved away from using Monroe as the ‘hub’ of the offense. That’s not really true. Houston just took it away. Monroe attempted 10 shots. He attempted four free throws. He turned it over four times and had an assist. That all translates to Monroe having the ball in his hands quite a bit, looking to make plays. The Rockets had defenders sagging off of perimeter players onto him all game long. Without shooters to make defenders pay for cheating, this will be a frequent and successful strategy against the Pistons this season. The Pistons are making 35 percent of their threes as a team, a respectable number. But when you consider that many of those threes are uncontested, it’s not that impressive. The lack of perimeter threats on the team will continue to be something that Frank can do little about and it will continue to hurt the spacing necessary to make the team’s offense more fluid.

I expect the Pistons to be a bad offensive team this season. I’ll measure Frank’s success/failure as a coach by how much better the defense gets and how much he plays Drummond.


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Tags: Andre Drummond Austin Daye Brandon Knight Charlie Villanueva Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell Jonas Jerebko Khris Middleton Kyle Singler Lawrence Frank Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Will Bynum

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