I don’t like to write about things like ‘effort’ or ‘motor’ much. First of all, it’s a huge, hacky cliché in sports writing to use those terms as a constant crutch — ‘they got out-worked’ or ‘they didn’t want it enough’ or ‘they didn’t have enough heart’ — I hate all that stuff. First of all, how do you even measure something like how badly a team ‘wants’ to win? How do you differentiate between whether they ‘wanted’ to win enough or just weren’t talented enough to win?
I like to be able to defend positions I take, and because things like that are subjective, opinion-based and, thus, hard to defend because different eyes might see different things, I try to avoid them. So with that headline, I don’t mean to suggest this game was about the Pistons not giving effort and the Bulls giving effort. It’s more complex than that.
For the Bulls, effort, toughness, motor … those things are actual measurable skills. You can see them show up statistically when the Bulls fall behind by double-digits but have the ability to come back and win games (which they’ve done to other teams this season). You can see it show up when they lose players from their lineup (already without Derrick Rose, they also played without Richard Hamilton tonight) and still manage to win games. You can see it when Joakim Noah makes himself impossible to keep off of the offensive glass. You can see it in games like this one where they don’t do the one thing they do best — play defense — and they still win.
There’s a reason the Pistons, despite shooting 51 percent and 57 percent from 3-point range, despite turning the ball over just eight times, despite getting arguably the best performance of the season out of two players (Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva) and a very good performance out of Brandon Knight, they still lost the game. Yes, coaching factors in to this, but as I’ve said throughout the season, despite all of Lawrence Frank‘s questionable decisions this season, the Pistons players have to be held more accountable for losing games like this. It’s not that I think the Pistons didn’t ‘want’ to win this game enough. I just legitimately think they collectively don’t know how to handle adversity. Part of that is being a young team, part of that is them just simply lacking talent to compete with middle-tier to elite NBA teams, but a large part of it is the NBA-level effort the winning teams put in is a skill, and it’s a skill the Pistons lack.
Joakim Noah got 10 offensive rebounds tonight. Five offensive rebounds would’ve been a great game on the offensive glass. Ten is a ridiculous number. If the Pistons held him to a great game rather than a ridiculous game, they probably win.
Kirk Hinrich came into this game shooting 34 percent. Tonight, he shot 4-for-5 and 2-for-3 from 3-point range. If you force him to miss one two and one three — not unreasonable considering how much he’s struggled — then you probably win.
The Bulls used a shorter bench (including one player, Nate Robinson, who was awful in the time he played), played their starters bigger minutes, and still looked like the fresher, more aggressive team. Yes, Frank’s decisions tonight continued his pattern of looking slow to adjust when he has a lead and the other team counters. That’s a significant issue. But, once again, the Pistons were porous defensively and were bullied inside no matter who they put on the court. Those are deficiencies that no amount of coaching will correct until the players simply learn how to be more physical, how to match the energy and toughness that a team like Chicago always plays with. Frank or whoever coaches the team in the future can certainly have a role in helping the players get there, but ultimately, games like this where one team so clearly beats you up inside and outside offensively is a reflection on the players too.
|Jason Maxiell, PF 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -6Maxiell rebound, but he was part of a frontcourt that was completely bullied by Chicago. Carlos Boozer always plays well against anyone the Pistons throw at him and Joakim … Noah … well .. he had about two games worth of statistics for him tonight.|
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 34 MIN | 4-9 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -11Prince was off a bit in the first half, but started hitting his shots in the second half. He was decent defensively against Luol Deng.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 24 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -7This might have been Singler’s least impactful game since he became a starter.|
|Greg Monroe, C 25 MIN | 6-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -7There’s not much to say about Monroe’s performance. He was not only a defensive liability, he also was ineffective as a rebounder. At this point, him not playing well defensively is fairly common, but if he’s also not rebounding, it’s hard to keep him on the court, even if his offense wasn’t bad tonight.|
|Brandon Knight, PG 35 MIN | 6-11 FG | 6-7 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 21 PTS | -10Knight recovered nicely from an awful game Wednesday. He had a great first half, but faded a bit in the second half. With just two turnovers, he took good care of the ball.|
|Charlie Villanueva, PF 21 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | 0Villanueva was part of the problem defensively tonight, and he didn’t help much on the boards, but when his shot is falling, he’s a contributor. He had it going tonight, so his minutes were positive ones, defensive liability and all.|
|Corey Maggette, SF 16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +9You guys already addressed it in the comments, but it is really unclear what Maggette has done to this point in the season to justify a rotation spot.|
|Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +3Drummond wasn’t as impactful as he was Wednesday. He fared better trying to contain Chicago’s frontcourt than Monroe and Maxiell did, but he still wasn’t that much better. Still, the positive takeaway from tonight — Drummond played 20 more minutes in two consecutive games for only the second time this season.|
|Rodney Stuckey, PG 36 MIN | 7-12 FG | 8-8 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 24 PTS | +9Knight had a good game tonight and he still looked like the second best point guard on the roster. Stuckey was really good tonight — he distributed, he attacked, he defended reasonably well, he got to the line and he even made 2-of-3 3-pointers. At some point, they’re going to have to consider starting him again. And when they do, I hope they reverse the roles of the guards in the starting unit with Stuckey as the primary point guard and Knight as primarily a shooting guard.|
|Lawrence Frank, Coach Listen, it’s the same story with Frank. He’s slow to adjust when things start going downhill, he played Maxiell big minutes despite the fact that he had an awful matchup, he played Maggette despite Maggette doing relatively little on the court and he even played a struggling Singler too much tonight. All that being said — this isn’t all Frank’s fault. Yes, he still gets an ‘F’ because he’s the coach, he was facing a depleted (albeit still very solid) team at home, his team shot 51 percent and 57 percent from three, only turned it over eight times and still lost, so he gets significant blame for that. But as I wrote above, the players just simply got out-worked, and we should all be heaping substantial criticism on them as well.|