The Pistons looked good going into the fourth quarter, they'd played a solid defensive game that had kept Oklahoma City out of the paint, and had found an effective way to score on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Still, despite being up by 11 points at the start of the fourth no one was at ease with the idea that the Pistons were going to win their first game of the season. Fourth quarter scoring droughts have plagued the Pistons like a bad habit this season, they didn't score until the 6:03 mark against Houston on Saturday, and as the Thunder opened the fourth quarter on a 13-0 run it was clear that the Pistons' bad habits had not yet died hard. Dropping to 0-8 after another poor fourth quarter showing, the only positives to draw from the game were in the moments that mattered least: the first three quarters.
The Silver Lining
Offensively, the Pistons were doing great job of moving without the basketball
, finding the open man and using up the shot clock to control the game's pace. With a season-high 22 assists on the night, the Pistons weren't allowing the Thunder
to crowd the lane, daring the Pistons to shoot from the outside. Stuckey was getting to the rim, Maxiell and Monroe were working together on the block, Tayshaun was playing well in the mid-range, Knight was hitting from the outside, and the bench put in a solid 21 point contribution. The offensive attack was balanced, had a direction, and looked better than it had all season long.
Defensively, the Pistons were doing a good job against the Thunder
. On a night that saw the Thunder
go 1-10 from three-point range, the Pistons crowded the lane making it difficult for Westbrook and Durant to get to the rim without being swarmed by at least three red, white and blue jerseys. The Pistons were forcing Durant and Westbrook into tough shots, and were using their misses to push the ball and catch the Thunder
out of position on the other end of the floor. Before the fourth quarter began the Pistons had held the Thunder
to a pedestrian total of 62 points. The Pistons defense was playing at it's highest level of the season, and with the offense playing great as well it appeared the Pistons had finally figured out how to play a complete game.
Bad Habits Die Hard: The Fourth Quarter
So, what happened in the fourth quarter? Tayshaun Prince
pointed out that the the Pistons offense was the cause of the problem on both ends of the floor:
"If your offense isn't flowing the it is (supposed to), that's when guys get out of position (defensively)." Prince said in the locker room after the loss.
The offense wasn't just 'not flowing' it had come to a screeching halt. The intensity was gone as the Pistons took their 11 point lead into the final quarter, and their offense was reflective of their mood. They stopped moving without the ball, the cuts that had gotten them so many open looks through the first three quarters were no longer being made, and the ball was being swung back-and-forth around the perimeter without any look inside. When the ball made its way into the lane, it was usually with less than eight seconds on the shot clock; a manufactured drive, forced right into the heart of the Thunder
defense. The Pistons missed often and missed poorly in the fourth quarter. Nearly every miss, every over-dribble into the lane, fueled the Thunder
's push down the floor as the Pistons found themselves out of position playing the same bad transition defense that has been a problem all season long.
There was 7:48 left on the clock when the Pistons finally entered the fourth quarter scoring column, but at that point their 11 point lead had disappeared and Russell Westbrook was in the midst of a 14 point quarter. Westbrook's fourth quarter scoring surge was fueled by his ability to play off his screens and take the Pistons guards straight into the lane. Knight couldn't keep up, Stuckey was helpless and even Bynum wasn't quick enough to match Westbrook's slashing. Westbrook would either finish with a lay-in or go to the free-throw line for two. When the Pistons guards began playing off to give themselves a better chance against the drive, Westbrook simply took advantage of the space and spotted up for a jump shot. The defense that had guarded the lane so well in the first three quarters, was being picked a part by Westbrook. Finally, to cap things off, Westbrook snatched a crucial offensive rebound, drawing the foul in the game's final seconds, and sealing victory for the Thunder
as Brandon Knight
failed to seal off Westbrook for the rebound.
Kevin Durant threw in 26 points to go along with Westbrook's 33 points and Kevin Martin had 13 points off the Thunder
bench. But after that, Ibaka was the only double digit scorer for Oklahoma City
with 11 points. The Pistons weren't beat by a complete offensive effort from the Thunder
, the players that were supposed to score for Oklahoma City
did score. There were no flukes or tricks that caught the Pistons off-guard, no 25 point outing for Serge Ibaka, the Pistons lost the game because they couldn't control themselves from their bad fourth quarter habits. Until the Pistons can figure out how to play for 48 minutes, the only thing to applaud will be the silver lining.
The Pistons starting five posted a balanced attack with Monroe, Maxiell, Stuckey and Prince all scoring 12 points or more.
Stuckey lead all Pistons with 19 points, and Brandon Knight had a team-high six assists.
Kyle Singler scored nine points for the Pistons off the bench, including two three-pointers.
Andre Drummond followed up his career-high performance against Oklahoma City on Friday night by putting up four points, six rebounds, one assist, one block and two steals in 13 minutes on the floor.
, Brandon Knight
, Detroit Pistons
, Oklahoma City
, Oklahoma City Thunder
, Tayshaun Prince
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