The Detroit Pistons made their first trip to the West Coast this week and managed to salvage one win in the four games. After dropping back-to-backs at Portland and Golden State, the Pistons got a win at Sacramento before finishing the trip by running out of has in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers.
That leaves Detroit a disappointing 3-6 so far, hardly what was expected from a team many expected to emerge as a contender for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference after a four-year absence. The only injury to speak of right now is guard Chauncey Billups, who is battling tendinitis in his knee and has been inactive the last two games. But if anyone has a clue to what Maurice Cheeks is doing with the rotation now, they’re smarter than I am. Will Bynum was a healthy scratch Sunday night in Los Angeles and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went from a DNP-coach’s decision on Monday to starting back-to-back games to close the trip.
The Week That Was
Monday, Nov. 11—Portland Trail Blazers (Moda Center, Portland)
The Pistons opened the trip with a hard-fought loss in a tough place to play in Portland. Detroit got down by nine early, trailed by as many as 13, battled back to lead by three points late in the first half, then were never able to get closer than three in the second half.
The defense rested in the first quarter on both sides as the Trail Blazers took a 34-30 lead, shooting 59.1 percent (13-for-22) to 54.5 percent for the Pistons (12-for-22). Damian Lillard led the Blazers with nine first-period points, while Nicolas Batum and a red-hot Mo Williams had seven each. Josh Smith paced Detroit with 11 in the quarter and Brandon Jennings had six on 2-of-7 shooting.
The Pistons cut the Blazer lead to 58-55 by halftime with a solid second quarter powered by their work in the paint. Detroit outscored Portland 10-4 in the painted area in the period and had six offensive boards, allowing them to compensate for their 10-for-24 shooting. Portland was 10-for-20 and got eight more points from Williams—who was 7-for-7 from the floor in the half—and six points from LaMarcus Aldridge. Rodney Stuckey came off the bench to score seven for the Pistons and Greg Monroe had six points and five boards in the quarter.
Portland extended their lead to 83-78 after three periods. The Pistons hung around, fell back, got close, but never could quite get over the hump. The shooting cooled down as Portland was 9-for-21 in the quarter to 9-for-23 for Detroit. Robin Lopez led the way for the Blazers with eight in the period and Aldridge did his best board work of the game with six rebounds in the quarter. Andre Drummond had six points and five boards for the Pistons in the third.
Jennings did what he could to try and keep the Pistons close in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points. The Blazers had more balance with seven points each from Lopez and Lillard and from Dorell Wright.
Jennings finished the night with 28 points and three steals, while Drummond had 16 points and 16 rebounds. Monroe scored 19 points, Stuckey wound up with 13. Smith never scored after the first period, finishing with 11 points as he just sort of … vanished. Will Bynum handed out six assists in 16 minutes off the bench. Portland got 25 from Lillard, 18 and 12 rebounds from Aldridge, 17 points and 10 boards from Lopez and 12 points and eight assists from Batum. The bench mob contributed with Williams scoring 17 points and Wright adding 11. Pistons fall 109-103.
Tuesday, Nov. 12—Golden State Warriors (Oracle Arena, Oakland)
The competitive phase of this game ended pretty early—the Pistons never led in the game, trailed by 19 by the end of the first quarter and by as many as 29 on the night. Golden State shot 60.9 percent (14-for-23) in the opening period while the Pistons were just 6-got-18 and the Warriors—not known as a big rebounding club—hammered the bigger Pistons on the glass in the opening period 15-5. David Lee had eight points for Golden State in the quarter while the Splash Brothers—Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry—had seven each, while Andre Iguodala continued to channel his inner Scottie Pippen as a point forward, dishing five assists. Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings had six points each for the Pistons. Everyone else had four … combined and it was 35-16 after just 12 minutes. Warning: Long night ahead.
The second quarter evened out a bit, as Detroit remembered it could, in fact, get rebounds. But Golden State extended its lead to 21 at the break, 62-41, behind nine points from Lee and six from Curry in the period. Greg Monroe had 11 in the quarter for the Pistons.
The Warriors extended the lead to 94-71 after three quarters, as Curry heated up for 12 points in the period and Harrison Barnes came off the bench for eight. Jennings scored seven for the Pistons, who seemed helpless from preventing Golden State from getting whatever it wanted offensively—the Warriors hit 62.5 percent of their shots through three quarters (35-for-56).
Detroit did win the fourth quarter behind eight points from Will Bynum as Golden State’s starting five became well-paid spectators. Jermaine O’Neal led the Warriors in the fourth with eight points.
Drummond threw down another double-double with 16 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and 14 rebounds and also had three steals and three blocked shots. Monroe scored 15 points, Bynum had 14 and three steals off the bench, Jennings added 13 to go with two assists (Hurray, point guard!) and rookie Luigi Datome got 10 points in garbage time. Josh Smith scored two points and played just 19 minutes as Maurice Cheeks sat him all of the second quarter and most of the second half. Curry led the Warriors with 25 points and had eight assists, Lee and O’Neal had 17 each and Thompson scored 14, Iguodala had only eight points, but handed out 11 assists. Warriors in a laugher, 113-95.
Friday, Nov. 15—Sacramento Kings (Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento)
The Pistons got a couple of days off after the back-to-back and arrived in California’s capital city just in time for their crowd to successfully set some contrived record for noise (Hooray, shouting!) On the court, first-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made his first career start in place of Chauncey Billups, who was inactive with tendinitis in his knee.
Detroit got off to a strong start as Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler scored seven each and Josh Smith, fresh off being a spectator much of the night in Oakland, dished five assists as the Pistons built a 27-21 lead. DeMarcus Cousins had six points and five boards for Sacramento, but the Kings turned it over seven times in the period.
Sacramento came back to lead, briefly, before the Pistons broke a tie when Luigi Datome buried a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in the half to put Detroit up 54-51 at the break. Rodney Stuckey scored seven points for Detroit, while Smith and Jonas Jerebko notched six each. Isaiah Thomas came off the Kings bench to provide a spark with nine points and five dimes and Cousins scored six in the quarter.
The Kings came out strong in the third quarter, taking a 64-62 lead with 5:05 remaining before the Pistons closed the period on an 18-6 flurry to take an 80-70 lead at the quarter break. Smith and Andre Drummond scored seven each in the period and Drummond also added seven rebounds while Smith blocked three shots. Cousins and Greivis Vasquez scored six each for the Kings, who were just 8-for-26 from the floor in the quarter.
Detroit led by as many as 14 in the final quarter and the Kings were only able to get it inside single digits in the final seconds. Stuckey had six points in the period for the Pistons, while Cousins scored eight and Thomas seven for the Kings.
Smith had a nice night for the Pistons with 21 points, eight boards, seven assists, five steals and four blocked shots in 44 minutes—message delivered from the benching, at least for one night. Stuckey finished with 16 points and Drummond had 15 to go with 18 rebounds. Brandon Jennings scored 11 points to go with nine assists and Singler had 11 off the bench. Caldwell-Pope had seven in the first period and never scored again. Cousins had 26 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for Sacramento, while Thomas finished with 18 points and seven assists and Vasquez had 13 points, six dimes … and eight turnovers. Pistons get one on the trip, 97-90.
Sunday, Nov. 17—Los Angeles Lakers (Staples Center, Los Angeles)
The final game of the road trip saw Will Bynum join Chauncey Billups in street clothes with a sore hamstring, but the Pistons came out strong in the first quarter, taking a 29-27 lead after leading by as many as seven. Andre Drummond had eight points and Josh Smith and Greg Monroe scored seven apiece and Brandon Jennings dropped five dimes. Nick Young led the Lakers with five points as Steve Blake directed a balanced attack with eight assists.
The Pistons extended the lead to 56-50 at the half, battling back to reclaim the lead after L.A. seized a one-point edge late in the period. Rodney Stuckey poured in 12 points in the quarter for Detroit, while Jordan Hill posted six points and six rebounds for the Lakers.
Then the second half happened. The Pistons went ice-cold in the third period, hitting just 7-of-25 shots, and the Lakers sizzled the nets at a 60 percent clip (12-for-20), turning the six-point halftime deficit into an eight-point lead by quarter’s end. Young had eight points for the Lakers, hitting all three of his shots—two from deep—and Wesley Johnson was also 3-for-3 and has six points. Smith led the Pistons with five points, Drummond had six rebounds in the period and Jennings somehow managed to find five assists on just seven makes for Detroit in the quarter.
Los Angeles stayed hot in the fourth quarter, hitting 15-of-24 (62.5 percent). Jennings tried to keep the Pistons in it, exploding for 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting—4-of-5 from distance—but the Lakers countered with 12 from Hill and eight from Jodie Meeks and led by as many as 19 points.
Hill finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds—both career-highs—for the Lakers, Meeks and Young added 19 points each, Johnson scored 13 and Pau Gasol had 12 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Blake also had a solid night with nine points, 16 assists—the most he’s had in a game since logging 17 for the Trail Blazers against the Clippers on Feb. 22, 2009—and four steals. Jennings led the Pistons witrh 23 points and 14 rebounds, Smith had 18 points, Monroe finished with 17, Stuckey had 16 and Drummond had yet another double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Sweet Rides and Lemons
Here’s what went well and what didn’t over the last week for the Pistons:
- Rodney Stuckey is giving the Pistons exactly what they’d hoped for—instant offense off the bench. Stuckey averaged 13 points a game last week, but might want to be a little less in love with the deep ball—he was just 2-for-10 from 3-point range.
- Detroit is taking good care of the basketball, averaging just 11.8 turnovers per game on the road trip, compared to 21.5 assists. The Pistons forced 17.5 turnovers a game out West.
- Will Bynum was the only regular member of the rotation to post a positive net rating last week, putting up an offensive rating of 119.5 points per 100 possessions to a defensive mark of 112.8 His 28.7 percent assist rate was also tops on the club for the road trip.
- Greg Monroe’s rebound tailed off—badly. After averaging 11.8 boards in Detroit’s first four games—including a whopping 5.4 on the offensive glass—Monroe averaged six rebounds a game on the road trip.
- Big guys and free throws: Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe took turns bricking free throws all week. Monroe was just 5-for-16 for the week (31.3) and he was Steve Nash compared to Drummond’s 1-for-7. Drummond is an athletic freak, but the free throw shooting could become a problem in close games—he’s just 2-for-12 for the season.
- Brandon Jennings’ shot selection—read: I have the ball, I must be open—can bog the offense down at times. Jennings averaged 18.5 shot attempts on the trip and shut just 39.2 percent. He was 6-for-21 from behind the arc, with four of those coming on five attempts in the fourth quarter Sunday night against the Lakers. In other words, he’s the same Brandon Jennings we saw for four years in Milwaukee.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: The first-round pick from Georgia sat out the game in Portland before making his first career starts to end the trip. He averaged 7.7 points in three games and 23.7 minutes, shooting 37.5 percent from the floor and 2-for-10 from 3-point range. Caldwell-Pope remains very much a work in progress.
Luigi Datome: Still getting into shape after missing the entire preseason, Datome scored 12 points in three games, playing 25 minutes in all. He was 5-for-10 from the floor, 2-for-6 from deep and provides very little else in terms of a floor game. When they said the Italian was a sharpshooter, they meant it literally—he doesn’t seem to do a lot of other things.
Tony Mitchell: One of the Pistons’ two second-round picks, the kid from North Texas played 14 minutes in two games, scoring three points with three rebounds. Not much to see yet.
Peyton Siva: The other second-round pick made a token appearance in the final minute of the loss to the Lakers and had zeroes all the way across on his stat line.
Weekly Stat Rankings
Here’s where the Pistons stacked up last week in some key statistical areas:
PPG: 98.5 (17th)
Opp PPG: 102.6 (24th)
RPG: 40.3 (t-24th)
APG: 21.5 (15th)
SPG: 9.8 (6th)
BPG: 3.8 (22nd)
FG%: 45.4 (28th)
3PT%: 25.6 (30th)
FT%: 62.9 (30th)
O-RTG: 104.5 (15th)
D-RTG: 112.1 (29th)
TS%: 50.6 (22nd)
Player of the Week
Andre Drummond was a beast on the road trip, shooting 73.2 percent (xxx) while averaging 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. His rebounding totals included 27 offensive boards in four games and at 4.9 offensive rebounds per game, he now leads the NBA. He’s also third in field-goal percentage at 65.9 percent and fourth in rebounds at 12.1 per game.
Coming Up Next
Nov. 19: New York Knicks (Palace of Auburn Hills)
Nov. 20: Atlanta Hawks (Philips Arena, Atlanta)
Nov. 22: Atlanta Hawks (Palace of Auburn Hills)
Nov. 24: Brooklyn Nets (Barclays Center, Brooklyn)