The Pistons entered Wednesday night's game against Sacramento still looking for their first win of the season. With Oklahoma City coming up twice and Houston once in the next three games, many believed that Wednesday night would be Detroit's only chance to avoid opening the season with a 0-8 record. Having six players put up double-digit point efforts, including a triple-double from Greg Monroe, the Pistons still managed to fall short to the Kings in the game's final minutes. Despite scoring more than 100 points, the Pistons saw themselves losing due to the inactivity of a familiar, big-minute starter. But before getting to the bad, let's hit the Pistons high-points.
Leading up to the game, all the talk was focused on the low post match-up of Greg Monroe and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins. Both players came out of the same draft class, and many believe that if the Kings had not selected Cousins at number five in 2010, the Kings would've picked Greg Monroe. It was a back-and-forth game between the two big men. If Monroe spun on Cousins for a lay-in, Cousins would go right back at Monroe with a pump fake and an underneath move of his own. They each scored 21 points on the night, but Monroe had the better game.
Billed as passing big man Monroe recorded a career high 11 assists on the night. But his assists weren't just limited to passes between the low post blocks to Jason Maxiell (although he did have a few of those). Monroe was collecting the defensive rebound, starting the fast break and finding a cutting Jonas Jerebko or trailing wing, he was standing at the top of the key zipping passes to the cutter on the baseline. Monroe was seeing the floor like guard. At the end of the night Monroe had recorded 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists—the first tripe-double for the Pistons since Chauncey Billups posted one against Minnesota on February 20, 2004.
As five other Pistons got to double figure scoring totals, Monroe's performance wasn't one that dominated the offensive touches. Most notably, Brandon Knight had 21 points and re-established himself as the team's backcourt deep threat going 5-9 from three point range. Jason Maxiell and Tayshaun Prince had 11 and 10 point games respectively, and the bench contributed 35 points as the Pistons scored 103 points on the night. Against a streaky team like the Kings 103 points is normally enough, but the Kings had seven double figure scorers to the Pistons six as they edged the Pistons with 105 points of their own.
So, where was the scoring hole that caused the Pistons to lose by two points? Same place it's been all season: Rodney Stuckey.
Against the Nuggets on Tuesday night, Stuckey had seemingly come out of the 1-for-23 scoring slump that had plagued him for the first three games of the season. He scored 17 points in Denver, and that must've renewed Lawrence Frank's confidence because Stuckey played 34 minutes against the Kings, the second highest minute total on the team behind Greg Monroe. Against the Kings, Stuckey only scored five points and his play was, if nothing else, forgettable.
Stuckey only took six shots, three of which were from behind the arch, and he didn't get to the free-throw line once all night. For Rodney Stuckey—a player who thrives on driving and drawing the foul—to not attempt a single free throw all night is inexcusable. It's not that Stuckey's effort is not there, but not drawing a single foul against a Sacramento team that committed 21 on Wednesday night should tell you that Stuckey is having a difficult time recognizing his role as a driving, lane scoring guard next to Brandon Knight.
Giving up 105 points to Sacramento speaks to poor defense, but having given up an average of 103.8 points a game this season it's clear that the Pistons do not have the personnel to defend well right now. Sacramento was already more than halfway to 100 points at the half, so clearly, the Pistons weren't going to win with defense on Wednesday. When you're winless, you cannot expect to dictate what kind of game it's going to be. Winless teams need to find ways to win, and against Sacramento the way to win was to have a player who was on the floor for 34 minutes contribute more than five points.
Tags: Basketball, DeMarcus Cousins, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe, NBA, Rodney Stuckey
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