Pistons likely stuck with No. 7 seed in NBA Draft lottery after beating four awful New Jersey Nets starters tonight


As I wrote before tonight’s game, I don’t want the Pistons to intentionally tank. Since then, I’ve thought about it a bit more. (You can do a lot of thinking when there’s no brain cells being devoted to watching the Pistons on television.) I still don’t condone tanking, but I’m going to channel my rooting interests toward a slightly more productive outcome.

If Detroit plays to its full potential and its opponent just happens to play better, that wouldn’t be so bad. The Pistons can still develop a win-at-all-costs attitude while improving their lottery odds. Win-win.

So, I figured it would be OK to root for the Pistons to play well and lose tonight, a mindset I’m sure many of you shared.

But the Nets put a serious dash in those hopes before the game even began by starting Jordan Farmar, Mario West, Sasha Vujacic and Dan Gadzuric. I’m sorry, but those aren’t NBA-caliber starters.

Entering tonight, the foursome combined for 205 career starts in 25 seasons – and nearly 40 percent of those came from Gadzuric six years ago, when he was still useful enough to start regularly for a 30-52 Bucks team. In the last three years alone, 50 players have started at least 205 games – and that list includes superstars such as Boris Diaw, Hedo Turkoglu and Anthony Parker.

Unsurprisingly, the Pistons snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the hapless Nets, 116-109, tonight.

Detroit now leads the Nets by three games with four games remaining, and no team is closer to the Pistons than New Jersey. The Pistons will likely receive the No. 7 seed in the lottery, but they can move as high as the No. 4 seed and as low as tied for the No. 7/8/9 seeds.

For the Pistons move up in the lottery, they will need – besides an unlikely New Jersey win streak – to play teams that start better players than the Nets do.

In 6:57 against the Nets’ starters, the Pistons outscored New Jersey, 19-8. Avery Johnson coached like he knew his starting lineup couldn’t compete. It’s pretty ridiculous for a team’s starters not to play even seven minutes together. But those six minutes and 57 seconds proved to be enough to give Detroit a win.

Of course, the Pistons couldn’t stop the Nets’ lone legitimate starter, Brook Lopez, who scored a career-high 39 points (14-of-20 from the field and 11-of-14 from the line) and had seven rebounds and three assists. Chris Wilcox fouled out and Greg Monroe picked up five fouls trying to defend him.

With the Bucks, Bobcats, Cavaliers and 76ers remaining on Detroit’s schedule, and the Knicks, Raptors, Bobcats and Bulls remaining on the Nets’, it’s probably to give up any hopes of nabbing more lottery combinations.

Rodney Stuckey returns

After being benched the last two games for refusing to enter the Bulls game, Rodney Stuckey returned to the rotation tonight. He had 22 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five turnovers playing 34 minutes, including the entire second half.

Via Dave Pemberton of The Oakland Press, John Kuester said:

""Rodney Stuckey is an integral part of this organization. I think it’s important that message have to be sent.""

I’m on board with that.

Via Pemberton, Stuckey said:

""It was a situation that was already taken care of. I just let my emotions get in the way."

""I’m really passionate about this game … so I just let my emotions get in the way. I got punished and it’s over.""

Refusing to enter a game doesn’t strike me as the passionate act of a basketball junkie, but whatever. I’m ready to be over this.

As I wrote yesterday, I hope Stuckey will become a better player, teammate and leader as a result of this incident. If he does, that will make it much easier for everyone to move on.

Two, nearly three, Pistons post double-doubles

In addition to Rodney Stuckey (22 points and 10 assists), Greg Monroe (20 points and 10 rebounds) also had a double-double. Plus, Richard Hamilton (25 points and nine assists) nearly became the third Piston with a double-double tonight.

The Pistons last had multiple players with double-doubles on March 2, when Monroe and Stuckey had double-doubles against the Timberwolves.

If Hamilton had gotten one more assists, Detroit would have had three players with double-doubles for the first time since Feb. 6, 2008, when Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Chauncey Billups had double-doubles.

And in case you’re wondering, the Pistons have had four players notch double-doubles four times. Isiah Thomas had double-doubles in all four games, Bill Laimbeer in three and Vinnie Johnson, John Salley and Rick Mahorn in two each. Chuck Nevitt, Sidney Green and Dennis Rodman each notched a double-double in one of the games.

The Pistons were actually a Laimbeer rebound away from having five players with double-doubles against the Bucks on April 5, 1987.

Greg Monroe becoming a scoring threat

Greg Monroe has certainly looked for his offense more often lately.

Earlier in the season, he played like he was under instructions to focus just on rebounding and defense. Then, the Pistons involved him in their pick-and-roll game.

Now, in the latter part of the season, they’ve given him more chances to show off the scoring ability many scouts saw in him at Georgetown

Monroe scored 20 points (7-of-10 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line) tonight and coupled with 22 points (7-of-13 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line) against the Wizards yesterday, this is one of his best two-game offensive stretches.

Teams have even had to foul him to slow him. Monroe had certainly never combined to make 14 free throws in consecutive games before these last two, but had never attempted 17 free throws in consecutive games, either.

Monroe’s combined 42 points are the second-most he’s scored behind combining for 43 with 16 against the 76ers on Feb. 25 and 27 against the Pacers on Feb. 23.

Chris Wilcox moving up Pistons’ single-season field-goal percentage rankings

Chris Wilcox has become the Pistons’ best interior scorer in years. Don’t get me wrong, Rasheed Wallace had more ability in the paint, but he spent a lot of time on the perimeter. I’m talking about guys who predominantly play inside offensively.

Wilcox gets a lot of his baskets after offensive rebounds, because he can crash the glass hard while still maintaining enough body control to convert putbacks. He also scores a lot on pick-and-rolls. Wilcox has the size to set good screens, the hands to receive passes and the explosiveness to finish at the rim.

Most importantly, he’s in a contract year.

Add it all up, and Wilcox is scoring very well inside. With tonight’s 6-of-7 performance, Wilcox raised his field-goal percentage to 55.99. Here are the 15 best Pistons seasons in terms of field-goal percentage (minimum: 30 field-goal attempts):

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Credit for Kuester

John Kuester earned some praise from AP freelancer Dave Hogg tonight:

"Pistons zone has kept Lopez out of the paint on two straight possessions."

"Nets can’t get the ball to Lopez against the Pistons zone. Might have wanted to try this earlier."

If you’re a Kuester basher, you’ll complain he didn’t make the switch quick enough. If you’re a Kuester supporter (do you still exist?), you’ll praise him for handling a tough matchup well.

Either way, you probably didn’t watch the game.

Injury updates

John Kuester decided before the game to give Tracy McGrady the night off, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com. McGrady played 29 minutes against the Wizards last night, and that was the most playing time he’d seen since he played 36 minutes against the Heat on March 23. McGrady hasn’t played in both games of a back-to-back since he played against the Rockets on Feb. 22 and the Pacers on Feb. 23.

After missing the second half with a knee injury against the Wizards yesterday, Ben Gordon made all three of his shots in 16 minutes tonight.

Will Bynum didn’t play in the second half after hurting his calf, according to Dave Pemberton of The Oakland Press.

Ben Wallace missed the game with a lingering knee injury.