Coming off a weekend that saw the Pistons post a 2-0 record against San Antonio and Milwaukee, two teams expected to make the postseason, it appeared as if the Pistons had taken a huge step forward. The weekend victories were the first for new point guard Jose Calderon and for the first time since being traded to the Pistons, the offense appeared to have a flow with Calderon playing floor general. Hosting Western Conference cellar-dwellers New Orleans on Monday, many expected the Pistons to extend their winning streak to three. Expectations were unfulfilled, and the Pistons were run off the Palace floor in an embarrassing 105-86 loss to the New Orleans Hornets.
The first two minutes saw the Pistons jump out to an 8-0 lead before New Orleans was forced to call an early timeout. The opening-tip scoring run saw Jose Calderon snag two steals, and four of the Pistons five starters were already in the scoring column. The Pistons looked ready to take advantage of a tired road team who'd just suffered a loss the night before. Didn't happen.
The Hornets came out of their timeout with an 8-0 run of their own, and from that point on they really didn't look back. Coming off the bench for the Hornets, Ryan Anderson posted 15 points in the first half. Robin Lopez was dominating in the paint with 17 first half points. Greivis Vasquez's 6'6" 211 lbs. frame gave the Pistons' undersized backcourt trouble the entire first half, as he outmuscled his way into the lane for a make of his own or an open shot assist. At the half, the Pistons were trailing by 14 points.
After halftime the Hornets were up by as much as 20 points, and the closest the Pistons would get was 12 points in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. The Anderson, Lopez domination of the first half continued in the third and fourth quarters. Anderson ended his night with 31 bench points on 13-21 shooing and 5-9 from the three-point line. Anderson single-handedly outscored the Pistons bench 31-30. Lopez continued to outplay the Pistons bigs with 23 points and 10 rebounds on the night. Vasquez was the best point guard on the floor with 13 assists for the game.
Greg Monroe had a double double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Calderon 13 points and eight assists. Still, the scoring was scarce in the second half as 11 of Calderon's total points came in the first half. The only bright spot was Rodney Stuckey's 19 points and four rebounds. That said, all but six of Stuckey's points came when the Pistons were seemingly out of gas, and the game out of reach.
Besides the tally in the loss column, one of the more troubling observations on the night was the play of Brandon Knight. Including Monday's loss to New Orleans, Knight has failed to score double-digits in three of the five games he's played shooting guard next to Calderon. Against the Hornets, Knight posted seven points on 3-10 shooting from the field. As the Pistons aren't likely going to make the playoffs, one of the saving graces of the season's second half had to be Brandon Knight successfully adjusting to the shooting guard spot next to Calderon. At best, Knight playing the two is looking like an inconsistent option for the Pistons.
Monday's game had the potential to show that the Pistons have developed into a team capable of referring to their opponents as "winnable games." Instead, they crushed the expectations built up over the weekend and brought an entire fan base back down to earth. They're still undisciplined, inconsistent and vulnerable to a blowout at the hands of NBA bottom feeders.
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