|Jason Maxiell, PF 31 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | -2Maxiell struggles defensively against a lot of bigs, but Randolph is the perfect type of player to match him up with. He’s strong enough to hold position and he’s not at a huge height disadvantage, so he’s athletic enough to bother Randolph’s shots. He’s always adequate from a technical standpoint defensively, but tonight, he was good and he helped force Randolph into a 3-for-8 performance.|
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 35 MIN | 6-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 15 PTS | -11Prince had his best all-around game of the season. He was efficient offensively and had his best defensive performance in ages, harassing Rudy Gay into a 6-for-17 shooting night.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 39 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -7A month ago, I would’ve considered this a fine game for Singler, but to his credit, he’s significantly raised expectations. Also to his credit, he didn’t shoot well, but he still impacted the game in other ways, particularly with his rebounding and defense.|
|Greg Monroe, C 31 MIN | 7-15 FG | 3-3 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | -10This frontcourt was a tough matchup for Monroe. To his credit, he was physical, he fought for shots in the paint despite not being as strong as Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph, he rebounded and he came up with two steals. But his seven turnovers were a killer.|
|Brandon Knight, PG 27 MIN | 3-9 FG | 4-5 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -3Listen, Knight has done some positive things of late. This game was a gigantic step back for him. He had six turnovers, he was careless with the ball, he shot poorly, he had no assists (and most of his teammates shot well, so the excuse that he made plays for guys who just missed shots doesn’t hold in this game) and Mike Conley put on a clinic. Like I said, Knight has done some things better this season, but this was an awful performance.|
|Charlie Villanueva, PF 15 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -3Villanueva had his worst shooting game since he was inserted into the rotation, but — surprise! — he doesn’t get that poor a grade. Ordinarily, if Villanueva’s shot isn’t falling, he’s not helping. Tonight, he battled defensively. Villanueva got back on defense on a breakaway by Darrell Arthur in the second half, stripped the ball from Arthur, Arthur got it back, then Villanueva blocked the shot. I’m harder on Villanueva than most players because he’s just been too bad a player for too long in Detroit to get much benefit of the doubt, but he’s definitely headed in a more positive direction than he’s been in years over the last few games.|
|Corey Maggette, SF 15 MIN | 0-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 3 PTS | -3Maggette came to Detroit with a reputation for being a get-mine type of player. Tonight, he didn’t make a shot, but he had three assists, a steal and got to the line four times — his trademark — in 15 minutes. I think he’s past the point of helping a team much in a rotation, even a bad team like this one, but I still haven’t minded his presence on the team. He’s seemed like a legitimately positive veteran presence, and to be honest, this team hasn’t had a lot of those in recent years.|
|Andre Drummond, C 19 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -9I will go into more detail on Drummond below. No, I’m not giving him a good grade for his performance tonight, but that’s kind of a positive at this point — he, like Singler, has advanced to the point where a game with respectable numbers is sub-par for him because of the standard he’s already set for that. He hurt the Pistons on the court at times tonight, but I still can’t give him enough credit for how ready he’s been to contribute meaningful minutes this season.|
|Rodney Stuckey, PG 28 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | -12Stuckey had an awful shooting game, continues to take a baffling number of 3-point attempts despite his awful percentage and he didn’t get to the line at all tonight, usually a huge part of his game. But all that aside, he was still by far the best point guard the Pistons put on the floor tonight.|
|Lawrence Frank, Coach | True to his word, Frank has shortened his rotation. He stuck with Drummond for 19 minutes tonight despite some fairly noticeable mistakes Drummond made, so that’s a positive. With the team struggling shooting the ball, it would’ve been nice to see a bit of Kim English tonight, but considering that Prince and Singler were playing strong defensively, it’s hard to get too worked up about that.|
Drummond’s pluses and minuses
If you put Drummond on the court for any amount of time, he’s going to block shots and he’s going to rebound. Those are extremely valuable skills, ones that should be earning Drummond more minutes and skills that the Pistons sorely lack. But because his readiness is such a surprise, there’s also a tendency to overlook his liabilities. Three plays, in particular, stood out for me against Memphis. Both cost the Pistons cheap baskets near the end of quarters.
In the final minute of the first quarter, Drummond got an offensive rebound. That’s good, and part of what makes him so valuable. But you know how Ben Wallace used to get an offensive rebound, then almost in one motion, toss it out to someone on the perimeter to reset the offense? That was instinctive to Wallace, a part of the play that was as vital as the rebound itself. Drummond hesitated. He didn’t immediately know where to go with the ball, then he brought it down low and it was stolen by Memphis. The Grizzlies went to the other end and Jerryd Bayless hit a jumper to give the team a 22-21 lead.
Late in the third quarter, the Pistons forced a Memphis miss, Drummond was in position to get the rebound, he grabbed it but didn’t do it aggressively, it slipped out of his hands and the Grizzlies kept the ball. Bayless again hit a shot that gave the Grizzlies a 76-66 lead. The Pistons would’ve had time to cut the lead to six heading into the fourth and instead went in down by double-digits because of something as little as failing to secure a rebound.
Drummond also had a play in the second half where he grabbed an offensive rebound, was positioned far under and away from the basket, jumped in the air like he was trying to attempt a shot, realized he couldn’t get one off and then threw a week wrap-around bounce pass toward the 3-point line that was easily stolen by Memphis.
Pointing those things out are not my attempt to pick on Drummond. Like I said, despite his shortcomings, he’s way too productive to not play significant minutes. But if you closely examine the mistakes he does make, they are the types of mistakes that tend to drive any coach at any level crazy. I don’t agree with the way Frank has used him to this point, but looking closely at Drummond’s mistakes at least makes it easier to understand that Frank is not necessarily crazy for having a quick hook at times. Drummond is supremely talented, he’s still arguably the second best big on this team, but he also still has a long way to go before he’s close to a finished product.
The missing Kim English
I alluded to it above, but I was hoping to see English get a few minutes tonight. English has played well in his limited time this season and seemingly disappeared from the rotation. But buried in this column by David Mayo at MLive was an explanation:
Specifically, it was English’s defense against Jimmer Fredette that was the issue. The Pistons took a tough loss that night in Sacramento, in a winnable game, and it was because of their defense, not because they didn’t score enough. It’s no coincidence that English hasn’t played a meaningful rotation role since.
Fredette scored 12 points off the bench in that game. Not sure what, specifically, English did or didn’t do defensively, but the Pistons as a whole were awful on D in that game. I’m still a huge English fan and wish he were playing, but at least that’s an explanation.
The Pistons were legitimately in this game
Don’t let the largely poor grades above fool you. The Pistons did some great things in this game. Overall, the defense was very good, led by Prince and Maxiell. They out-rebounded the Grizzlies and shot a little better. Sloppy games by Knight and Monroe were legitimately the difference. The Pistons were competitive most of the way despite an awful performance taking care of the ball from Monroe and Knight. The Pistons are not good enough to beat anyone, let alone one of the best team’s in the league, while making unforced errors. Tonight reinforced that, but everyone should feel a little positive that the defense was strong enough to keep Detroit close most of the way. That’s a significant improvement from just a couple weeks ago.