Pistons defensive problems start with Maurice Cheeks, as Clippers highlight

Los Angeles Clippers 112 Final
Recap | Box Score
103 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -13

Blake Griffin (25 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal) absolutely dominated this matchup on both sides of the floor. Griffin is vastly superior to Monroe athletically, but – even though this disparity was as big as it gets – Monroe is usually at an athletic disadvantage. He typically finds ways to compensate. Today, he was completely overwhelmed.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 42 MIN | 12-22 FG | 0-3 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | +3

The Pistons made a point of posting up Smith on Matt Barnes to start their offense, and it usually worked. Smith shot, passed and Kobe assisted well from that position. In other circumstances, he was a little more out of control, but still generally effective.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 34 MIN | 5-6 FG | 5-8 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | -4

Drummond and DeAndre Jordan are similar players in that both excel because they’re physically elite. But Jordan (16 points on 11 shots, 21 rebounds and four blocks) is clearly further along. He repeatedly got better position than Drummond today. That’s OK, because Drummond is five years younger, and he’ll get there. Drummond more than played well enough to show why everyone believes in him. There’s little shame in not being as good as Jordan, who has really elevated his game to the next level this season. I look forward to Drummond eventually taking that step.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +2

Jennings forced – and missed – just enough shots to remind you he was there, but he was mostly invisible. On defense, though, that’s progress.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +5

Caldwell-Pope had a couple nice moments (a steal and self-started transition opportunity, a confident jumper) and a couple lousy ones (fouling J.J. Redick twice on made 3-pointers). Two of Caldwell-Pope’s steals came immediately after the Clippers got the ball, so today didn’t spotlight his lockdown defense as much as how his athleticism helps in chaos. Overall, the good outweighed the bad. There just wasn’t much of either.

Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2

Harrellson made a 3-pointer, but his lack of defensive mobility limits him.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1

Jerebko came in to play a little defense at the end of the first half. He fouled Blake Griffin.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -14

Singler was asked to do a lot, and he did some of it. He even ran the point late in the game, which is interesting, and based on how Cheeks has managed this team recently, quite possibly something the Pistons had never practiced before.

Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 17 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -14

Bynum was aggressive when the Pistons didn’t have much else going, providing the spark they needed. They just didn’t have much else going too often today.

Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 11-20 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 29 PTS | -7

Stuckey is more focused on scoring than he’s ever been. As long as he does it this efficiently, I’ll gladly take it. He’s made real strides with his mid-range game.

Maurice Cheeks

The Pistons’ defense is horrendous, and the issues are systematic. Detroit’s wings sag inside to protect the paint, leaving closing out on open 3-point shooters nearly impossible. When the opponent penetrates or moves the ball – or, god forbid, both – the Pistons are too frequently out of position to rotate multiple times. It’s as if their defensive gameplan doesn’t account for more than the initial adjustment. Today put both issues on prime display, at least through three quarters. The Clippers had 94 points before losing focus in the fourth quarter. Let’s not overreact to a comeback that got the Pistons no closer than nine. The Pistons have survived at times defensive, because they’re aggressive. Detroit starts five players who, when targeting them, get steals at high rates for their positions. The Pistons still have some defensive liabilities mixed with their good defenders, and that makes creating quality defensive lineups difficult. But Detroit’s defense is fundamentally unsound, and that’s on Cheeks. Patrick and I spent part of the fourth quarter discussing whether the Pistons could/would fire Cheeks this season. As Patrick pointed out, the Pistons don’t have a logical replacement on the staff – their own failing, but an issue nonetheless. Coach Sheed sounds great, but he’s probably not ready. Anybody want to force out Cheeks for Henry Bibby? I didn’t think so. The schedule softens in the next month, and I could see the Pistons at .500 15 games from now. That wouldn’t make Cheeks suddenly a good coach, but that probably pushes him past the point of no return – for the rest of this season, at least.

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Tags: Andre Drummond Blake Griffin Brandon Jennings DeAndre Jordan Greg Monroe Henry Bibby Jonas Jerebko Josh Harrellson Josh Smith Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Kyle Singler Los Angeles Clippers Matt Barnes Maurice Cheeks Rasheed Wallace Rodney Stuckey THN-LAC Will Bynum

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