Hot and Cold
Pistons sizzle in 1st half, fizzle in 2nd in loss to T-wolves
The 105 points they scored still should have been enough to win, as John Kuester pointed out first in his postgame comments. But that misses the point with these Pistons. Their inconsistencies go across the board. The only constant is that they too often look back at something – a cold-shooting quarter, or a spell of bad defense, or breakdowns that enable two sloppy minutes to wipe out 10 precise ones – and shift their focus to remedying a new evil, only to have a different malady undermine them the next time out.
After Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota – which came to The Palace with a 14-47 record – the focus was defensive mind-set.
“We’ve got to make more of a commitment every day to change the culture of our thinking defensively,” Kuester said. “Just making sure we defend people. We’ve got to do a better job. We gave up (52.6 percent). We’ve got to make sure that level of commitment that we talk about every day has got to translate from practices to shootarounds to game situations.”
Neither team played much defense in the first half, which saw the Pistons spurt to an early seven-point lead that got wiped out by a horrific first two minutes of the second quarter when Minnesota scored 10 points in 99 seconds. The Pistons got lulled into a run-and-gun game in which the shot clock rarely ticked below double digits, which was fine when they were playing at a high level on their end.
They got anything they wanted in the first half, but that shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Minnesota gives up 107.4 points a game, last in the NBA. The aberration was Minnesota’s second-half defense – but, more probably, it was the Pistons’ second-half offense. After shooting 53 percent in the first half, the Pistons plunged to 33 percent in the second, and shot selection played a big role in the dropoff – and also gave Minnesota, which finished with 19 fast-break points, plenty of chances to run.
“When we don’t score, we struggle defensively,” Kuester said. “And that’s where we’ve got to change the culture of what we’re thinking.”
“That’s how you win games – you’ve got to play hard on defense every play,” said rookie Greg Monroe, who posted his fifth double-double in six games since the All-Star break with 18 points, 11 boards and four steals. “You’re not going to stop a team on every play, but you’ve got to make sure that effort is there on every defensive possession.”
No matter who the opponent, though, no matter the game’s tempo, the Pistons have had massive problems in second halves. In fact, they rank last in the NBA in second-half scoring differential. They came into the game at minus 4.2 – even the woebegone Cleveland Cavs are better at minus 3.6 – and that only got worse with the nine-point advantage Minnesota posted in the 116-105 win.
But the minus 4.2 is the symptom, and the difficulty in treating the symptom is that it’s been born of many causes. That’s how they’ve gotten to 22-41 with 19 games left.