Pleasing Pistons fall to Lakers by one

Simple recap: The Pistons played well. The Lakers played well.

This was one of the Pistons’ most pleasing games of the season. They trailed by eight in the first quarter and tied the game in the second quarter. Then, they trailed by 18 in the third quarter and tied the game in the fourth quarter. There’s no shame in being only one point worse today, just as there would have been no shame for the Lakers if the Pistons had pulled out the win.

The Pistons are far from perfect, but they played hard and they played and played unselfishly. After the last few years, just being entertaining more often than not is progress, and they were definitely that tonight.

I can only imagine what Jose Calderon will add.

Los Angeles Lakers 98 Final
Recap | Box Score
97 Detroit Pistons
Jason Maxiell, PF 25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -12

Maxiell did plenty of things – going hard after rebounds, dunking, blocking shots – I really like. But he’s way too in love with his mid-range jumper (0-for-3 today). Cut those out, or at least limit them, and he’d be a lot more effective.

Greg Monro , C 32 MIN | 9-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 20 PTS | -4

Monroe has shot 49-for-83 (59 percent) in his last six games after a relatively inefficient start to the season. He’s doing an excellent job of establishing deep post position and patiently picking his spots. Add excellent rebounding and at least effort on defense, and Monroe is starting to play like we all hoped he would this season.

Rodney Stuckey, PG 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -3

He passed the ball alright, but Stuckey was such a non-factor, the Pistons had Kyle Singler defend Kobe Bryant down the stretch.

Brandon Knight, PG 34 MIN | 3-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -10

As we’ve seen, Knight isn’t good enough to start as a distributing guard right now. I also worry he’s not good enough to starting as a scoring guard, either. He just hasn’t proven himself an efficient enough shooter. He moved the ball well today as a complementary option, but he’s sort of stuck in the middle between both backcourt roles. Right now, he’s good enough to be a combo guard off the bench on a good team. There’s plenty of time for him to improve, but I still wonder how much the Jose Calderon trade indicates the Pistons aren’t totally sold on Knight. Also, Knight is docked points for poor form in his dust-up with Metta World Peace. You can’t go at someone like World Peace and duck your head into his chest. Better advice: Don’t be a small guard and go at World Peace.

Kyle Singler, SG 40 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +12

Singler worked hard on defense, drawing a charge on World Peace, but the Kobe Bryant assignment was too much for him. Singler is doing alright for what he is, a rookie who was as second-round pick, but the Pistons should be looking to upgrade their wings this offseason.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 10 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -6

Jerebko made a 3-pointer late in the first quarter that really got him going. He was more engaged on both ends, working to get open offensively and hitting the glass defensively. But his ability to guard his man was lacking, especially on Kobe’s half-ending alley-oop to Earl Clark.

Charlie Villanueva, PF 16 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +3

Villanueva scored all 10 of his points in the final eight minutes, so he really stood out during an exciting finish. But, overall, his contributions were closer to average.

Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +11

Without Tayshaun Prince, who was arguably the team’s top perimeter defender, are the Pistons funneling more drives to Drummond? His four blocks match a career high against legitimate NBA teams,* and his two steals were also impressive (especially the one he took right to the basket himself before being fouled). Drummond was solid with his lob receptions, but he was a defensive game-changer. And it certainly looked like Pau Gasol fouled Drummond on the last-second lob attempt, but no more so than the type of fouls that usually get overlooked at the ends of games.

*Every team besides the John Wall-less Wizards.

Will Bynum, PG 29 MIN | 9-18 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | +13

The Lakers haven’t defended penetrating point guards well for years, and Bynum took full advantage. When the Pistons’ offense stagnated otherwise in the second quarter, Bynum made five straight Detroit field goals. Then, as the Lakers collapsed on his drives, Bynum transitioned well into a quality distributor. The Pistons’ offense was way more aesthetically pleasing than usual. Prince’s departure is certainly a reason, but Bynum was also a key factor.

Kim English, SG 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -9

I thought English could become what Kevin Pelton calls a 3&D player, someone who spaces the floor on one end and defends well on the other. But English’s defense must improve a great deal before he can fill that role.

Lawrence Frank

The Pistons are a player short, and it shows. Knight played poorly and received 34 minutes. Stuckey was off and still got 23 minutes. Singler was just so-so in his six minutes at guard, but he provided more than English did in his eight minutes. Detroit really struggled in just two situations: when its starting lineup was in (-11 in 13 minutes) and when English was in (-9 in eight minutes). Once Calderon can play, the starting lineup will change and English will likely drop out of the rotation. In the meantime, I’m not sure what else Frank can do with the backcourt.

As far as the front court, I’ll let Mike D’Antoni take this one:

"Drummond’s great, but when he’s in the game, it usually means Monroe isn’t, which is good for us."

Tags: Andre Drummond Brandon Knight Charlie Villanueva Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell Jonas Jerebko Jose Calderon Kim English Kyle Singler Lawrence Frank Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Will Bynum