Pistons news: The microcosm, free throws and the rotation mirage

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons
Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages


The Detroit Pistons lost their 5th in a row, "hanging in" against the Orlando Magic but ultimately coming up short. 

As Paolo Banchero was sealing the game at the free-throw line, commentator Greg Kelser summarized it perfectly by saying that the final seconds were a "microcosm" of the Pistons' season, as everything that could go wrong did. 

After being gifted a chance by two missed free throws by Banchero, Cade Cunningham tied the game with a runner, going quickly and leaving 12 seconds on the clock. The Magic went back to Banchero, who had been broke all night, and he threw up a tough shot that not only went in, but drew a foul on Jalen Duren, who never saw a pump fake he didn't like. 

Look, Banchero made a tough shot, so you tip your cap to him, but there was no reason at all to jump out on him like that. We see this time and time again, as NBA players try to block a jump shot and instead pick up a foul. 

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This was a microcosm of sorts, as the Pistons did some things well, looked good in stretches, but were ultimately undone by their own lack of execution. Cunningham hitting the rim on a 70-foot heave that would have tied the game only made it that much more painful. 

 Free thows and lack thereof 

For the second game in a row, Cade Cunningham didn't shoot a single free throw, but not for lack of trying, as he was in the paint drawing contact all night. In fact, the entire Pistons' starting five only shot six free throws total (all by Jalen Duren) and there was a 21 to 13 disparity at the line, which was the difference in the game. 

Ausar Thompson was called for a questionable 5th foul as he tried to fight through a moving screen. Seconds later, Cade Cunningham was whistled for his 4th trying to defend Banchero, who initiated all of the contact to a straight up Cunningham and even delivered an elbow to his face in the process. 

This has been a theme all season, as the Pistons rarely get the 50/50 calls or benefit of the doubt for their stars. Part of this is that they are a young and bad team that hasn’t established relationships or reputations with the referees, fine, but part of it is that NBA refs are so eager to blow the whistle, so eager to stop play, so eager to be part of the action.

The flow of the game was ruined, and the last minute, which should have been far more exciting, was plagued with free throws and stoppages. The NBA is hurting its own product calling games like this, as you can almost predict when fouls are coming based on the context of the game and who has the ball. 

Monty Williams’ rotation for the Detroit Pistons 

Fans were eager to see what coach Williams would do vs the Magic in regards to his wonky rotations. He’s taken a ton of heat for his baffling choice to consistently use 12-13 guys even though he has one of the worst rosters in the league. The best and deepest teams don’t use this many players, so when you are getting to Detroit’s 11th-12th guy, we aren’t talking about All-Stars. 

Last night, Monty finally did it! He only used 10 players, but before you get too excited, remember that rotation regulars Marcus Sasser and Isaiah Stewart were both out and will be right back in the mix when they are available. If they had been there, would Monty have only used 10 players? Doubtful. 

Sasser is day to day and Stewart still has another game left on his suspension, so I’ll be suspending my belief in Monty Williams’ shortened rotation until then.