Shorthanded Pistons can’t keep up with Nuggets

Jun 9, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Chauncey Billups wins inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award trophy honoring best teammate in the NBA during a press conference prior to game two of the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 9, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Chauncey Billups wins inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award trophy honoring best teammate in the NBA during a press conference prior to game two of the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pistons couldn’t make as much of Chauncey Billup’s jersey retirement game as they did of Ben Wallace’s. Instead, the Denver Nuggets (the team on which Billups had the second most success) managed to take the win.

73. Final. 92. 64. 103

It’s a shame that Detroit had to waste a relatively easy game (at home, against a bad team) by having half of their rotation unavailable. The shorthanded Pistons played neck-and-neck with the Nuggets through the first half, but ultimately couldn’t hang on as Denver pulled away just enough after the break to grab a comfortable victory. Coupled with the Charlotte Hornets’ big win over the Indiana Pacers, this drops the Pistons out of playoff position for the first time since November.

This game started really ugly. For much of the first half, it looked like a college game. Both teams were sloppy, often a bit slow, and just didn’t look quite ready for prime time. But they both stepped it up a lot starting in the mid-to-late second quarter. Unfortunately, the Nuggets did so a bit more than the Pistons and they end up with a sweep of this year’s series.

D-. Jennings’ shooting wasn’t bad. And it was buoyed by some shots the Pistons absolutely needed to make (not that they ended up being enough anyway) in desperation time. But from the opening tip, it was evident that Jennings doesn’t know how to run this team like Jackson does. As the starting point guard, he managed just one assist in almost 30 minutes. And he was lucky to only have two turnovers given how many of the passes he attempted were very risky. Most of the time, though, he simply failed to find the open teammates to pass to. Or he threw atrocious, impossible-to-complete lobs to Drummond that were essentially turnovers but were instead tallied as missed field goals by Andre.. PG. Pistons. BRANDON JENNINGS

SF. Pistons. STANLEY JOHNSON. C-. Stanley Johnson continues to unimpress with his decision making. When he makes a smart play, it’s evident that he has a lot of talent. But he tends to commit himself to a play way to early and it more often than not fails to develop how one might hope. His missed wide-open three that could have cut the Nuggets’ lead to six with just over a minute left was also the final nail in the Pistons’ coffin.

Morris may well have been the best player in this game–although I’m sure Jusuf Nurkic would contest that. He unfortunately cooled down toward the end of the game but still wound up efficiently wound up the game leader in assists and one off the leader in points. And he gave Danilo Gallinari fits on the other end.. SF. Pistons. MARCUS MORRIS. A

PF. Pistons. ANTHONY TOLLIVER. C-. Tolliver did his best Ilyasova impression. Most especially with a really nice charge he drew. He also knocked down back-to-back threes midway through the fourth quarter to bring the Pistons back within one and give them a real shot. Unfortunately he didn’t hit any other shots all game. His best play, though, was easily single-handedly stopping and rebounding a 3-on-1 Nuggets fast break. Although, to be fair, that was only possible because Gallinari stupidly decided not to pass the basketball.

B-. Andre Drummond came out looking like beginning of this season Drummond. I’m not sure what changed, but he was playing with energy, pizzazz, and even occasionally boxing out. Also, like his first couple games, he was attempting a lot of back to the basket shots and they looked really bad. I can give him a bit more of a pass in this game, though, because the Pistons were short on shot creators. Also, his shooting wasn’t as bad as his box score looks. While he did inexplicably attempt a free throw line jumper (which didn’t come close), he also got several misses trying to finish terribly placed lobs. More concerning were a couple shots he missed because he had to rush his attempt to try to avoid getting stopped by a foul. It was a good decision, but that is illustrative of how his free throw woes set him back even when the other team isn’t playing hack-a-Dre.. C. Pistons. ANDRE DRUMMOND

B+. Aaron Baynes was efficient and effective on both ends of the floor, even when playing out of position alongside Andre. The Pistons would have probably been better off with more minutes from Baynes instead of Tolliver. But it’s good to know that having Drummond and Baynes on the court together is at least a semi-viable option. Drummond even set Baynes up for an easy dunk with a gorgeous inlet pass.. C. Pistons. ARON BAYNES

Hilliard looked like a real NBA-caliber rotation player. While he was nominally a wing and Steve Blake played backup point guard, Darrun was the de facto point guard most of the time when Jennings sat. And I would argue that he outplayed Jennings.. SG. Pistons. DARRUN HILLIARD II. A-

C+. Steve Blake hit a couple big threes, one bailing out a bad Pistons’ possession. Those were very helpful. Otherwise, though, he contributed nothing. And it was pretty sad to see Danilo show more veteran wiles than Blake in drawing a dumb shooting foul toward the end of the third. The Pistons needed him in this game (they weren’t going to roll with just seven players). But in the future, if there are enough wings available, I wouldn’t mind seeing him replaced by Hilliard as the third-string point guard.. PG. Pistons. STEVE BLAKE

The Pistons were down three starters and three more players. And they’re not that deep to begin with. There just wasn’t too much I could ask of Van Gundy in this one. I liked the more creative rotations (even if his hand was somewhat forced). I liked the plays out of timeouts. And I thought that the Pistons generally played with energy. I liked the decision early on to largely ignore Faried and double whoever got the ball. The Nuggets countered by not playing Faried, but that just shows that Stan did about the best he could with that situation. On the whole, it was disappointing to see the Pistons drop this especially since it seemed winnable early, but I’m not blaming Van Gundy this time.. Head Coach. Pistons. STAN VAN GUNDY. B