Pistons turn up defense after Maurice Cheeks focuses on it, rout Cavaliers

Detroit Pistons 115 Final
Recap | Box Score
92 Cleveland Cavaliers
Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +3

Monroe is at his best running hard down court and posting up a single defender. When not every defender has found his man, it’s harder to help on Monroe. But when operating in a more crowded post, a negative effect of the Pistons’ jumbo lineup, he’s more prone to struggles. Monroe provided more defensive resistance than usual tonight. He also made a mid-range jumper, but that’s not a big deal until he does so more consistently.

Josh Smith, SF 31 MIN | 10-18 FG | 3-3 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 25 PTS | +19

Smith got hot, making 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions late in the first half. That bolstered his strong interior scoring, though, of course, Smith bricked a few long jumpers for good measure. As a playmaker, Smith too often tried to thread the needle with his pass or dribble. Although that led to a few impressive plays, the overall risk outweighed the reward. The Cavaliers tried to challenge Smith’s liabilities as a perimeter, but that played right into Detroit’s advantage. Alonzo Gee (1-of-4 on 3-pointers) and Earl Clark (2-of-8 on 3-pointers) aren’t the player to punish Smith. In other situations, Smith defended well.

Andre Drummond, C 34 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +19

Drummond is fast for his size, and that got him a few open-court dunks. In the halfcourt, his size and hands make him such an easy target inside, and he finishes well, too. Add quality rebounding, and the total package begins coming together. Defense? Drummond provided that, too. Andrew Bynum (0-for-11, two turnovers) is no longer a good offensive player, but Drummond absolutely dominated him.

Brandon Jennings, PG 32 MIN | 6-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 4 REB | 13 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | +26

Jennings was aggressive looking for his own shot in the pick-and-roll, which should help the Pistons’ bigs going forward. It didn’t hurt that Jennings was converting his looks tonight, either. The point guard showed excellent court vision as the Pistons broke open the game in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Jennings skillfully doubled in the post to give Cleveland’s bigs trouble. Kyrie Irving (21 points on 14 shots) tore him up, but Irving will do that nearly everyone.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 17 MIN | 1-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2

Caldwell-Pope is a fine defender. He especially stands out on the Pistons, whose defense – especially by their guards – has been unimpressive. But when the rest of the team is defending better, as was the case tonight, he hardly makes an impression on that end. All that’s left is a bad shooter.

Josh Harrellson, PF 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Harrellson was effectively pulled from the rotation in favor of Luigi Datome. Harrellson played only late in each half, after Drummond picked up a foul in the first and after the game was effectively decided in the second. Put in position to help on Kyrie Irving a couple times, Harrellson fouled him once and allowed a mid-range jumper. Not a fair matchup, but about all we have to grade Harrellson on tonight. That and a quick catch and pass to Smith for one of Smith’s 3-pointers, so although none of it was significant, it wasn’t all bad.

Luigi Datome, SF 17 MIN | 6-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +4

Datome made one 3-pointer in five tries, but wow, was it beautiful. His was form perfect, and his release was quick. The arc he put on the shot was incredible. Then, it just splashed through the net. I see why people fall for his shooting, regardless of the results. He actually did a better job inside the arc, going toward the basket. His steal and fastbreak dunk in the final seconds was a nice moment for someone who delivered after not playing this much in more than a month.

Kyle Singler, SF 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +23

It seems like Singler is rebounding really well this season, but his rebounding numbers are down a little from last year. Is Singler secretly a good rebounder? He also hit both his 3-pointers, so definitely a good night.

Chauncey Billups, SG 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -3

All Billups’ shots were 3-pointers, and on his lone make, he looked like vintage Billups, sticking a shot in a defender’s eye. Otherwise, Billups just slowed the offense.

Rodney Stuckey, SG 31 MIN | 6-16 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +25

Stuckey finished poorly, making just 3-of-11 shots in the paint, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of his offensive contributions. The Pistons’ movement, player and ball, was better with him on the court, and it started with him moving and passing well. That gave his teammates better lanes to make cuts and passes themselves. Defensively, Stuckey was seemingly everywhere, collecting five steals.

Maurice Cheeks

As I’ve said before, it seems Cheeks does his most significant coaching between games rather than during them. Fox Sports Detroit reported during tonight’s telecast the Pistons focused on defense before this one. Because the game was played at such a fast pace, the final score underrates how well the Pistons defended tonight. Their defensive rating was 88.0, which would rank first in the NBA – by a wide margin – over the full season. The Cavaliers’ season-long offensive rating is just 97.4, 27th in the league, so this wasn’t the toughest opponent. But considering the Pistons’ season-long defensive rating is 104.1, 20th in the NBA, this performance was definitely stronger than usual. And aside from Stuckey, I can’t identify a single player whose individual defense greatly bested his usual level. The Pistons played excellent team defense, and given the timing, Cheeks deserves credit.

Tags: Alonzo Gee Andre Drummond Brandon Jennings Chauncey Billups Cleveland Cavaliers Earl Clark Greg Monroe Josh Harrellson Josh Smith Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Kyle Singler Kyrie Irving Luigi Datome Maurice Cheeks Rodney Stuckey THN-CLE

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