In case you missed the game, here’s a quick recap:
- The Mavericks took an early 11-0 lead while showing significantly more effort and focus than the Pistons
- The Mavericks played lousy, and Detroit climbed back in the game.
- The Mavericks continued to play lousy, and Detroit took a 12-point lead.
- The Mavericks played, at best, averagely for them and took control of the game.
- The Mavericks won, 88-84.
Really, this game wasn’t really about the Pistons. They’re not good enough to influence Dallas. The only suspense came from how the Mavericks would decide to play.
Tayshaun Prince powers, but falls short
Tayshaun Prince showed an assertiveness that has been lacking for much of this season.
He scored a season-high 19 points and made shots on three straight possessions late in the fourth quarter, including a nifty pump fake and drive past Tyson Chandler where he hit a layup while being fouled.
But as great as Prince played offensively down the stretch, his defense was lacking. He was a big reason Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry lit up the Pistons late.
One play stood out, when Prince left Terry to help inside. That wasn’t a bad decision, but standing near the block and merely watching Terry shoot an open jumper rather than scrambling to challenge it was.
Prince can’t keep settling. His late buckets helped Detroit, but that wasn’t enough. He needs to bring it on both ends of the court, or his job might be in jeopardy…
…Because Tracy McGrady showed more signs of being back
I haven’t seen Tracy McGrady look this explosive this season. Earlier, he showed lift when the defense gave him room, and that was encouraging. Tonight, he forced the action a bit.
I wrote above that the Pistons got back into the game because Dallas played poorly, and I stand by that.* But if there was a reason on Detroit’s side, it was McGrady.
*Why wouldn’t I? It was only a few paragraphs ago.
McGrady made a couple non-open jumpers by lifting above the Dallas defender and drove baseline for a dunk in traffic. Sprinkle in his four assists, four rebounds, a block and a steal in 20 minutes, and it’s clear he’s taken another step.
On the down side, he went 0-2 on free throws and 0-2 on 3-pointers and had three turnovers and three fouls. There’s obviously still room for him to grow, but he has one thing working for him.
For the record, I don’t expect that to happen. But slightly more likely: motivated in part by Prince’s feud with Kuester and McGrady’s resurgence, Joe Dumars feels more inclined to trade Prince.
Dirk Nowitzki dominates
The Pistons had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 42 points.
Early, he shot jumpers over the shorter Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace. Then, Charlie Villanueva didn’t have the proper awareness to stick with him. Late, Tayshaun Prince wasn’t physical enough with him.
Nowitzki is a matchup for any team, especially one with the league’s 25th-best defense. But I just didn’t like the strategy of sticking Maxiell and Wallace on him for much of the game. They didn’t do anything wrong. They just were too short to disrupt Nowitzki’s high release.
Even if Villanueva would have been frequently lost, at least he had a shot to defend Nowitzki if things went right.
Jason Maxiell didn’t let his struggles defending Dirk Nowitzki impact the other areas of his game.
Most of the time Maxiell scores, it’s because he’s done a ton of work before the shot – either putting himself in position to receive a pass from his teammates or grab a rebound. That effort was on full display tonight.
Maxiell made 5-of-7 shots for 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Monroe blocked again
"He’s getting blocked by bigs in front of him because he’s not challenging them with any fakes or anything that will throw off their timing — and when he does fake, it’s in slow motion."
Since reading that, I’ve been watching his shots a little more closely. I disagree with the first part of Thorpe’s evaluation, but I think he’s right on with the second part.
Ironically, Monroe gets his shot blocked too much because he’s too worried about his shot being blocked. He has a tendency to bring the ball down and pump fake multiple times without evaluating, allowing his defender to size him up and gaining no advantage.
It’s a concern, but not a long-term worry. In time, Monroe will see defenses develop and not rush things.
On the bright side of Monroe playing recklessly, he grabbed eight rebounds in 19 minutes. Hopefully, that doesn’t go away when he begins to process things better on offense.