Only one word can describe the Detroit Pistons’ 106-102 loss last night to the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers: frustrating.
The Pistons controlled the game for three quarters, particularly in the paint racking up an NBA season-high 76 points, but questionable lineup decisions and play-calling down the stretch haunted them as they dropped to 6-10 on the season.
Maurice Cheeks left Andre Drummond on the bench for the entire fourth quarter when he already had 13 points and 11 rebounds in a mere 16 minutes of action. Cheeks also went with a smaller lineup that featured Kyle Singler, who played 33 minutes and was a minus-17 off the bench, for most of the game. The Pistons gave up several offensive rebounds late that led to numerous second-chance opportunities that were cashed in behind the three-point line.
The Lakers were 14-for-31 from three compared to the Pistons’ 1-for-8. Wesley Johnson played the game of his life last night for the Lakers going 9-for-11 from the field and 6-for-7 from three en route to a 27 point performance. Shawne Williams also cashed in five triples for the Lakers off the bench.
The Pistons didn’t notch a point in the score column outside of the paint or free-throw line until about midway through the third quarter.
Packing it in and punishing the paint is always a recipe for success, but at some point a team has to start knocking down perimeter jumpers.
Shooting has been the Pistons’ kryptonite so far this season and last night was a perfect reflection of that.
The Pistons had only six buckets outside of the paint: one three-pointer and five mid-range jumpers…that’s it.
It’s been nauseating watching the Pistons shoot from the outside so far this season. Open look after open look, clank after clank, at some point some of these looks have to fall.
If there is one positive shooting-wise, it seems as if Jennings is finding his stroke and confidence (minus his 1-for-3 disaster at the line late that could have tied the game). Jennings was the only scoring punch the Pistons had in an anemic 15-point fourth quarter, yet Cheeks elected to go with Stuckey in crunch time.
It’s hard to argue with that strategy since Stuckey has been the team’s hottest and most dynamic scorer this season, but it looked like the Green Bay Packers trying to run into the Detroit Lions front-four this past Turkey Day.
The play-calling (or lack thereof) late seemed panicked and featured too much isolation. With a team that features forwards that can pass like Smith and Monroe, it’s interesting that they didn’t run something through the block that could utilize their play-making ability. Especially Monroe (zero shot attempts in the fourth quarter) who had 19 points on 9-for-15 shooting and was the team’s most reliable scoring option through three quarters.
Although on one of the possessions late they got the ball into Smith’s hands, the hoop looked like an earring to him last night. Smith was 4-for-16 from the field and missed gimme after gimme. Coupled with that, he was 0-for-4 from the charity stripe. Smith did notch a season-high 19 rebounds and also had eight assists in another stat-sheet-stuffing performance.
It’s hard to fathom that an NBA team can have 76 points in the paint and lose a game.
But, it’s not hard to fathom when the team struggles to shoot and defend the perimeter like the Pistons do.