With both the Pistons playing their fourth game in five nights, the "tired leg" effect was hovering above the Pistons bench before the tip. Still, it looked like the Pistons were going to run away with it early, opening the game with a 21-4 run. The Pistons were pushing the ball, working it inside, and finding the high-percentage shot; they were playing good basketball. Then it became a game. A 13-4 Denver run at the end of the first quarter carried over into the second quarter, and at half-time the Pistons had been outscored 44-21 since their opening 21-4 run. The second half was a lot like Monday night in Philadelphia, both teams trading baskets, but the Pistons 17-point second quarter was too much for to overcome. The Pistons lost to the Denver Nuggets 101-94.
Denver's cast had a solid game top to bottom. Andre Iguodola had 12 points, 8 rebounds. Corey Brewer was hot from three-point land, going 3-for-5 behind the arch towards a 15 point night. Athletic seven-footer JaVale McGee had 12 points, mostly on dunks, and had 4 blocked shots. Andre Miller came off the bench to help with 11 points and seven assists. All solid numbers, but nothing out of the ordinary in an NBA game. That's where Ty Lawson comes in.
Just like against Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday on Monday night, the Pistons did not have an answer for the high pick-and roll with Denver's Ty Lawson. Lawson, who was averaging a little better than 12 points per game before Tuesday night, played a gem; scoring 26 points, with seven assists and zero turnovers.
Lawrence Frank talked about the Pistons inability to defend Lawson, and the pick-and-roll after the game:
"At the end of the day, in the fourth quarter, we could not control the penetration off the pick-and-roll," Frank said. "Whether it was (them) getting to the rim or whether (it was) Brewer hits a big three, Lawson hits a big three."
With both Brandon Knight or Rodney Stuckey taking turns defending him, Ty Lawson was able to penetrate the lane where he punished the Pistons with a lay-in or high-rising floater. If the Pistons defense converged, Lawson would dish it out to the perimeter for one of Denver's 22 assists on the night. In an effort to keep him out of the lane the Pistons switched to a zone-defense look in the third quarter. Lawson simply spotted up and knocked down his "big three" Lawrence Frank spoke on. Tuesday was the second straight game the Pistons have lost in large part because of their inability to defend the pick-and-roll. It's becoming a problem, and one that is keeping the Pistons from succeeding in games that are more "winnable" —if that label can even be used with the Pistons.
Now, for the Pistons bright-spots. Jason Maxiell had a monster game, recording six blocks, six rebounds and 18 points. Brandon Knight continued his high-level play of the last few weeks by scoring 20 points and recording five assists. Rodney Stuckey continues to thrive in his sixth-man role, coming off the bench on Tuesday night to score 17 points (all in the second half) in 28 minutes on the floor. Greg Monroe had 12 rebounds, but looked sluggish at times and really did not play a good game with only six points on a dreadful 1-for-9 shooting night.
The Pistons next game is Friday night in Brooklyn. This is the Pistons first meeting with the Brooklyn Nets, and with the Nets having just lost a heartbreaker to their rival Knicks, it could get rough on Friday night. Still, win or lose, it would be encouraging to see if the Pistons can make any adjustments in the pick-and-roll as they prepare for Deron Williams. The Pistons backcourt defense needs to get better, and the Brooklyn Nets will provide another difficult test for them. The Pistons take on the Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 pm on Friday Night.