The Pistons haven’t had much of anything to play for for weeks now, and their 10-game losing streak and often disinterested play is a reflection of that. But we got a nice reprieve tonight as the Pistons gave a game effort and actually led at halftime as they took their turn at trying to end Miami’s historic winning streak. Not surprisingly, they weren’t successful, and that’s OK. It was nice to simply see some fight — including Jonas Jerebko, who always seems to irritate the Heat whenever the teams play, inducing a flagrant foul out of Mario Chalmers and Greg Monroe having one of his best games of the season with 23 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Also, Kim English continues to be highly entertaining — he played solid defense in his 12 minutes of action. A little too solid. He picked up six fouls and fouled out in those 12 minutes.
The Pistons have had plenty of halftime leads and seen them evaporate this season, but tonight’s three-point lead seemed particularly unsafe. The Heat have been toying with bad teams a bit of late, including overcoming a 27-point deficit to beat the Cavs earlier this week. The Pistons, at the very least, played hard, played physical and made the Heat work hard. Or, at least work as hard as any team can make the Heat work right now.
Grades generator is down, so you’ll have to settle for text only tonight. Box score is here if you need it.
Jose Calderon (B-) – He shot the ball well and also moved pretty well without the ball — Monroe and Jason Maxiell both found him on nice cuts to the basket. But he was uncharacteristically sloppy with seven turnovers and he lost Mario Chalmers a couple times for open threes.
Rodney Stuckey (B-) – Stuckey didn’t shoot well, but the fact that I’ve watched so much college basketball the past two days has made me less harsh about that (seriously … college basketball is the worst). Stuckey played hard and did a pretty good job defensively against Dwyane Wade.
Monroe (A) – Monroe had his entire, beautiful offensive game on display tonight. He beat guys off the dribble. He passed from the high post. He took pretty good care of the ball. He made post moves. He even hit an elbow jumper. Monroe has been less consistent this season than we’d been accustomed, but there is no doubt that he’s one of the most skilled big men in the league offensively, and the more weapons the Pistons can put around him next season, the better he’s going to be.
Kyle Singler (A) – Singler made open shots, he rebounded, he moved without the ball and he had one of his best games of the season. He didn’t guard LeBron James particularly well, but who does?
Jason Maxiell (C+) – Maxiell had a nice pass to a cutting Calderon in the first, then also had an early turnover trying to make an extra pass, not bad for a guy who rarely looks to pass.
Jerebko (B) – Jerebko didn’t shoot well, but he did make an open three (something that is vital for him to improve if he’s going to be a rotation player), he grabbed eight rebounds and he was the feisty irritant and hustle player that made him gain so many fans in the first place
Will Bynum (F) – Bynum only played 13 minutes and made no impact in a game the PIstons really could’ve used his scoring off the bench.
English (C-) – English continues to shoot poorly, but he gave the Pistons good minutes defensively, even if he was too foul-happy. He took a good, hard (and clean) foul on James on a run-out that would’ve been a dunk in the first half and he handled himself well defensively against Wade and Ray Allen. I have no problem with is aggressiveness, even if he did pick up quick fouls.
Charlie Villanueva (F) – Ditto what I wrote for Bynum. If the Pistons got any offense at all out of either of their two bench guys whose job is solely to provide offense, they would’ve had a chance to win this game.
Lawrence Frank (A) – After weeks of this team playing like they didn’t care all that much, Frank deserves credit for getting the Pistons prepared enough to compete hard against the Heat. Whether he’s the coach here beyond this season or not, that’s a sign that he’s still respected in the locker room and, even in a lost season, can still motivate the team, even if trying to end Miami’s winning streak was also a motivating factor. The Pistons had a good gameplan. They were physical with Miami, they let Monroe dominate inside against Miami’s collection of stiffs they throw out there at the center position when Chris Bosh isn’t in and, if they got any shooting at all from Bynum or Villanueva, they would’ve had a chance to win on the road against the probable NBA champions who are playing out of their minds right now. Not a bad night for Frank.