As the Atlanta Hawks began chipping away at a Pistons lead that was as large as 19 points at one point Friday, rookie center Andre Drummond‘s struggles happened to coincide with an Atlanta run. Zaza Pachulia — a professional irritant — flustered Drummond, who picked up a technical foul. Then in the post in a one-on-one situation, Pachulia, a strong and crafty big with great footwork, tied Drummond in a knot on an up-and-under move that resulted in a bucket.
As tends to happen when Drummond makes a couple of mistakes, Lawrence Frank pulled his prized but still learning big man. The difference for both Drummond and Frank, though, was what happened on the game’s final possession. With the Pistons up one — thanks to what appeared to be an Al Horford game-tying three actually being a two upon review — Frank pulled Greg Monroe in favor of Drummond for the game’s final possession. On the in-bound, Josh Smith caught the ball in good post position on Drummond, but Drummond quickly fouled, knowing the Pistons had one to give. Then, on the ensuing play, Drummond switched and got his fingers on a jumper by Lou Williams that looked like a pretty clean look until Drummond flew into the picture.
This represented a great step forward for Frank, trusting Drummond in a tight end of game situation, and for Drummond, who overcame a couple of bad defensive mistakes from earlier in the game, moved past them and was fantastic on the game’s final possession.
Four straight wins have the Pistons back on track with an outside shot at the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, exactly where most predicted they’d be before the season started, and Frank continues to mystify with the ability of teams he coaches to play so, so badly to start seasons only to get much stronger as the season progresses.
|Jason Maxiell, PF 29 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-5 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +6Maxiell was great defensively down the stretch, holding his position defensively against Al Horford (something Monroe and Drummond had a hard time doing), getting a tough rebound in traffic and a big block late in the game that helped preserved the win. The only slight criticism — he missed two free throws in the last two minutes that would’ve helped give the Pistons a bit more margin for error.|
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 29 MIN | 2-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -4Prince played OK defense on Atlanta’s shooters, but he shot horribly himself and also made a costly turnover on an inbounds pass with six seconds left that gave the Hawks a chance to win the game.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -4Usually, even if Singler doesn’t do much scoring, he does enough other things — hustle plays, defense, rebounding or passing — that help contribute. Tonight, he didn’t do much of anything.|
|Greg Monroe, C 34 MIN | 5-14 FG | 8-10 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | -5Monroe didn’t shoot well and had a couple of bad defensive possessions, but he supplemented that by getting to the line and taking good care of the basketball. He also came up with three steals.|
|Brandon Knight, PG 36 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | -8Knight got off to a decent start in this game and he took good care of the ball. He also had another strong defensive performance against Teague. Two things bothered me — the first obvious one was his 0-for-5 3-point shooting, including misses on several clean looks. The other, on the Pistons’ final possession, Prince was trying to find Knight on the inbound. Knight was held a few times by Teague. More than once, I’ve heard Knight compared to Chauncey Billups upside-wise. A key difference between the two was fully on display on that play — Billups has always been incredible at selling contact. Knight barely flinched. In that situation, you have to make it blatantly obvious to an official that you’ve been grabbed, and Knight didn’t do a good job of that.|
|Charlie Villanueva, PF 13 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -7Villanueva, mainly an offense-only player, scores zero points and doesn’t get a bad grade? Well, in this bizarro world Pistons bench where formerly bad players are suddenly good, Charlie Villanueva plays defense. He had two blocked shots and several decent defensive possessions tonight. You read that correctly.|
|Austin Daye, PF 22 MIN | 9-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | +6Austin Daye may have had his best game as a pro tonight. His shooting prowess was obvious, but he’s also rebounding well, defending well and in a far cry from last season, looks like a legitimate NBA rotation player right now.|
|Andre Drummond, C 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +8I pretty much summed up Drummond’s performance above. He was his typical impactful self on defense, with a hiccup here and there when it comes to the finer points — he tends to make mistakes in one-on-one situations and crafty bigs with good footwork can exploit his weaknesses. But overall, he’s a major reason the Pistons are suddenly a competent team.|
|Will Bynum, PG 17 MIN | 2-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 5 PTS | -6Bynum struggled shooting the ball and had three turnovers, but he did a decent job of running the offense when he was in the game and picked up five assists in 17 minutes.|
|Rodney Stuckey, PG 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +19Stuckey was solid in his return to action and looked healthy. His presence probably means fewer minutes for Bynum and Singler in the long run, but that’s not a bad thing.|
|Lawrence FrankAs was mentioned in the comments, Frank’s substitution patterns in the fourth quarter probably helped contribute to an Atlanta run and the inbounds play he drew up for the team’s final possession could’ve been a disaster if the turnover resulted in Atlanta making a game-winning shot, but overall, the team is obviously progressing, he trusts Drummond more, he’s consistent and he certainly deserves credit for the team improving since their disastrous beginning.|