The Detroit Pistons put together a 2-2 week, sweeping the New York teams at the beginning and end of the week and being swept in a home-and-home by the Atlanta Hawks in between.
At 5-8, the Pistons are currently in the No. 8 position in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Washington Wizards but in possession of the head-to-head tiebreaker. Yes, it’s early, but the games count the same in November as they do in March and April, so keeping pace does matter.
Josh Smith, one of the Pistons’ big free-agent acquisitions, created a flap by getting benched against the Hawks in the back end of the home-and-home because he missed a practice the day before the game. It’s rare that an NBA team practices the day after a back-to-back and after Detroit lost in Atlanta on Wednesday, Smith opted to stay behind and attend to some family matters (he is an Atlanta native who played nine years with the Hawks) and missed Thursday’s practice that Maurice Cheeks called on the flight home.
Smith apologized for the mistake and blamed himself for the lack of communication.
“Generally 99.9 percent of the time on back-to-backs, we have the day off and considering I was at home and my father was dealing with a real serious illness, I thought it was self-explanatory, but I should have made better communication on my part as far as letting these guys know that I was going to stay over,” Smith told the Detroit Free Press on Saturday. I apologized to Joe Dumars and Cheeks the following day. It’s a situation that’s very minor and I really want to move past it.”
The Week That Was
New York Knicks—Tuesday, Nov. 19 (The Palace of Auburn Hills)
The Pistons took the floor having lost seven straight to the Knicks, with their last win coming March 18, 2011, at the Palace. Detroit took an early lead, getting seven points each from Josh Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the first period to take a 26-24 lead. Andrea Bargnani kept New York in the game with nine points in the quarter.
The Knicks battled back in the second quarter by doing work on the glass, getting five offensive rebounds and outboarding the Pistons 14-9. Carmelo Anthony scored five points for the Pistons in a low-scoring period, while Andre Drummond had six points and four boards for Detroit and the teams headed to the locker room tied 43-43.
The Pistons closed the third period strong. After the Knicks tied the game at 51-51 on Anthony’s layup 3½ minutes into the second half, Detroit ran off a 13-5 run to take a 64-56 lead with 2:33 left in the quarter. Rodney Stuckey scored eight points for the Pistons and Smith added seven as Detroit took a 71-63 lead after three periods. J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni had five points apiece for New York in the quarter.
The Pistons opened their lead up to as much as 15 points in the fourth quarter, getting seven points each from Drummond and Stuckey in the period. Anthony scored 11 for the Knicks and Smith added nine, but the rest of the team had just three and the Pistons held on for the win.
Stuckey came off the bench for 21 points and five assists in 31 minutes. Smith had 19 points, Greg Monroe finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, Drummond had 13 points, 11 boards and three blocked shots and Caldwell-Pope also had 13 points. Brandon Jennings took just three shots and scored only two points, but handed out seven assists.
Anthony led the Knicks with 25 points and seven rebounds, Smith had 18 points, Bargnani had 13—but only four after the first period—and Iman Shumpert scored 11. Pistons win it 92-86.
Atlanta Hawks—Wednesday, Nov. 20 (Phillips Arena, Atlanta)
The Hawks came in winners of the last three against the Pistons, who were 1-3 against Atlanta last season. But the Hawks have won the last nine in Atlanta, with Detroit’s last victory there coming Feb. 12, 2008. The first quarter turned into an impromptu tribute to the bricklaying industry, as the teams combined to shoot 12-for-44 in the opening period. Al Horford scored four points for Atlanta and Josh Smith—in his return to Atlanta—had four for the Pistons as the Hawks opened a 15-13 lead.
The Pistons got the offense going in the second quarter, going 13-for-21 from the floor even as the Hawks were a sizzling 12-for-16. Rodney Stuckey scored 12 points for Detroit in the quarter and Brandon Jennings added eight as the Pistons took a 46-43 halftime lead. Paul Millsap had 11 in the period for Atlanta.
The Pistons went cold in the third, shooting 8-for-20, and the Hawks got six points from Millsap while claiming a 66-64 lead after three quarters. Jennings had five points in the period for Detroit.
The Hawks took it home strong, however, hitting 8-of-14 in the final quarter and holding the Pistons to 8-for-23 shooting. Mike Scott played the entire period for the Hawks and scored nine points, while Jeff Teague added eight. Jennings tried to keep the Pistons close with six in the final quarter, but the Hawks steadily pulled away, leading by as many as 13 in the period.
Jennings had 21 points and six assists for the Pistons, while Stuckey added 18 points before fouling out. Smith had 11 points, three steals and two blocked shots but was just 5-for-15 in his return home as Detroit was 35-for-87 (40.2 percent) on the night. Andre Drummond finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.
Millsap led the Hawks with 19 points, Teague had 18 to go with seven assists and DeMarre Carroll went for 11 points and 12 rebounds. Scott had 11 off the bench and Horford finished with 10 points and five blocked shots. Hawks win the first of the home-and-home 93-85, their 10th straight win at home over the Pistons.
Atlanta Hawks—Friday, Nov. 22 (The Palace of Auburn Hills)
The Hawks and Pistons split their two meetings at the Palace last season. But it was Atlanta that got off to the hot start, erasing an early seven-point deficit to lead by as many as nine points in the opening 12 minutes. Al Horford had seven points and six boards in the first quarter for the Hawks, while Kyle Singler—starting in place of Josh Smith, who was benched after missing practice the day before—had 10 for the Pistons. Atlanta led 27-22 at period’s end.
The teams battled evenly in the second quarter, with the Hawks extending their lead to 11 before Detroit whittled it back down. Andre Drummond had eight points and six rebounds in the period for the Pistons, while Kyle Korver banged home a couple of 3-balls to score six for Atlanta, which led at the break 49-44.
The Pistons battled back to take a short-lived one-point lead in the third before the Hawks got things stabilized. Jeff Teague scored 14 points in the quarter for Atlanta, while Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey had six each for Detroit as the Hawks maintained that five-point lead, 73-68, after three periods.
Detroit had one last run, coming back to take an 87-86 lead with 3:30 remaining on a pair of Stuckey free throws. But the Hawks scored 10 of the game’s final 12 points to get the win. DeMarre Carroll scored nine in the quarter for Atlanta, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tossed in seven for the Pistons, who were hampered by four turnovers by Brandon Jennings in the quarter.
Singler led the Pistons with 22 points. Stuckey added 17 for Detroit, Drummond had 15 points, 16 boards and two blocks and Greg Monroe had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Jennings handed out 14 assists, but was 4-for-16 and scored eight points. Smith, meanwhile, was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting in 20 minutes.
Teague had 18 points and nine assists for Atlanta, while Horford added 17 points and 11 rebounds, Millsap and Korver scored 14 points each and Carroll finished with 12 points and three steals. A 96-89 win for the Hawks and a home-and-home sweep.
Brooklyn Nets—Sunday, Nov. 24 (Barclays Center, Brooklyn)
Brooklyn swept last year’s season series and the Pistons were winless in their first two trips to the Barclays Center. Detroit got off to a solid start, holding the Nets to 7-for-22 shooting in the opening quarter. Kyle Singler led a balanced Pistons attack with five points, while Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche scored four each for Brooklyn as the Pistons took a 23-19 lead after one quarter.
It was the Nets’ turn to defend in the second quarter. Brooklyn was a sizzling 13-for-17 from the floor while Detroit managed to hit just 8-of-23. Joe Johnson scored 13 points for the Nets and Alan Anderson came off the bench to add seven more. Greg Monroe’s seven points in the quarter helped keep the Pistons in it, but Brooklyn went into the half with a 51-44 lead.
Whatever Maurice Cheeks and the coaching staff did at halftime, however, worked. Detroit hit 12-of-18 in the third quarter while the Nets were just 5-for-19. Brandon Jennings scored 10 points for the Pistons and nine different players scored in the quarter for Detroit. Johnson tried to keep Brooklyn in it, scoring six in the quarter, but the Pistons led 78-66 heading into the fourth.
The teams traded buckets over the final 12 minutes as Rodney Stuckey erupted for 17 points in the quarter for the Pistons and Johnson scored 12 for the Nets, while Mirza Teletovic added nine for Brooklyn.
Stuckey paced the Pistons with 27 points and had six assists. Monroe finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Jennings had a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists, Josh Smith had 13 points and three steals and Singler scored 11 points.
Johnson led the Nets with 34 points, Pierce added 19 and Blatche had 10. Garnett led Brooklyn with nine boards, but didn’t score after the first quarter, and Shaun Livingston handed out seven assists. The Pistons came out with their first-ever win in Brooklyn, 109-97.
Muscle Cars and Lemons
Here’s a look at the best and worst of the week for the Pistons:
- The Pistons continue to rebound like crazy, outrebounding their opponents last week 44.0-38.5 over four games. Andre Drummond averaged 12.3 boards per game for the week and is currently fourth in the NBA at 12.2 per game. Drummond also leads the NBA, shooting 66.4 percent, but 95 of his 113 shots are from less than five feet. Beyond that distance, he is just 7-for-18, while he is 68-for-95 in the restricted area.
- Greg Monroe found his touch last week, going 21-for-37 from the floor (56.8 percent). Kyle Singler also shot the ball well at 16-for-30 (53.3 percent).
- Even as Brandon Jennings has trouble finding his shooting touch—he was 16-for-50 last week, 32 percent—he averaged 9.3 assists per game as he seems more willing to facilitate the offense while waiting for his own shot to come.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is getting opportunities with Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum nursing injuries, he’s just not doing a lot with them. KCP shot a dismal 24.4 percent last week (11-for-45) while averaging 26 minutes a game.
- The Pistons continue to chip the paint off the rim from 3-point range, hitting 29.6 percent last week (21-for-71). For the year, Detroit is the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA at 28.5 percent.
- Bad week for Josh Smith. There was the benching, there was the scoreless game and there was the week in general, where he was 16-for-50 from the floor. In the game in Atlanta, it looked like Smith wanted it too badly and tried to force the action rather than letting the game come to him. That’s not uncommon for players making their return trips to a city where they starred for many years.
Luigi Datome: Datome got off the bench for two games, played 15 minutes and scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and was 2-for-5 from downtown.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: As detailed above, Caldwell-Pope continues to be a shooting guard who can’t shoot. On the positive flip, he didn’t turn the ball over in 102 minutes over four games and had six steals. But one would expect a guard to have more than two assists in four games.
Peyton Siva: Saw limited action in all four games, playing 23 minutes and missing the one shot he took, a 3-pointer. He did have three boards, an assist and two steals.
Tony Mitchell: Only stripped off the warmups once and got less than a minute of garbage time at the end of the game at Brooklyn on Sunday.
Weekly Stat Rankings
Here’s where the Pistons stacked up last week in some key statistical areas:
PPG: 93.8 (t-20th)
Opp PPG: 93.0 (t-7th)
RPG: 44.0 (t-11th)
APG: 18.8 (23rd)
SPG: 9.0 (t-7th)
BPG: 4.8 (13th)
FG%: 44.9 (13th)
3PT%: 29.6 (28th)
FT%: 69.5 (21st)
O-RTG: 100.9 (18th)
D-RTG: 98.2 (9th)
TS%: 51.7 (20th)
Player of the Week
Rodney Stuckey had himself a week. Coming off the bench, Stuckey was the Pistons’ leading scorer over the four games at 20.8 points per game in 29.8 minutes a night. He shot 54.4 percent from the floor, 50 percent from deep and 90.9 percent from the line while averaging 3.5 assists.
Coming Up Next
Monday, Nov. 25: Milwaukee Bucks (The Palace of Auburn Hills)
Wednesday, Nov. 27: Chicago Bulls (The Palace of Auburn Hills)
Friday, Nov. 29: Los Angeles Lakers (The Palace of Auburn Hills)
Sunday, Dec. 1: Philadelphia 76ers (The Palace of Auburn Hills)