Pistons Fall to Golden State
That wasn’t the way this was supposed to work. The Pistons won Friday at Charlotte , came home feeling pretty good about themselves, and looked to establish a winning streak – modest, but a winning streak nevertheless – by beating a Golden State Warriors team that had to follow the Pistons into Charlotte , where the reeling Bobcats scored a 12-point win on Saturday.
With a four-point halftime lead, the Pistons – on paper, at least, the fresher team, though playing their seventh game in 10 nights with a depleted lineup hardly qualifies them as “fresh” – hoped to pull away in the second half.
But they got left choking on Golden State’s gold dust as the Warriors, transitioning from the run ’n’ gun Don Nelson era to Mark Jackson’s defense-first philosophy, showed they haven’t completely abandoned their running roots.
The Warriors scored 24 points in transition, 15 of them after halftime when they shot 56 percent and dropped 55 points on the Pistons, ruining another terrific performance from Greg Monroe, who got to the foul line 14 times and made 13, both career bests, in a 25-point, eight-rebound night that means he’s averaged 25.3 points and 11 rebounds over his last three games.
But Monroe was left to bemoan the leaky defense afterward, dismissing his scoring as the product of his teammates finding him in positions that required Golden State to foul.
“The one thing we have to do, we have to get better on ball, one-on-one defense. We play team defense but as a group, we all have to be better at containing our man,” he said. “That will eliminate some of the easy buckets teams are able to get.”
David Lee scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half to keep Golden State close and then Monta Ellis – limited to five points and four shots in the first half as he picked up two early fouls – finished with 22 and seven assists.
“We’re not going to win many games when a team shoots (54) percent in the third quarter and (scores) 55 points in the second half,” Lawrence Frank said. “We just don’t have that margin for error. They got the 50-50 balls. They were just a step quicker, a step faster, a step more aggressive they deserved to get the victory.”
The Pistons played again without Charlie Villanueva, missing his seventh straight game with an ankle injury. Will Bynum missed the game with a foot sprain suffered in Friday’s win at Charlotte and Damien Wilkins was not available as he dealt with a family matter, but is expected to rejoin the team in Houston on Tuesday.
That left the door open for Austin Daye to make his case for playing time, but Daye continued to struggle. He missed all four of his shots in his first two stints, including three from the 3-point line where he has yet to make one this season. Coming on a third time – this time at power forward late when the Warriors went small – Daye did manage to clean up an offensive rebound and lay it off the glass. But that was it for his stat line – two points and one rebound, to go with a steal and a turnover – in 12 minutes.
Daye’s struggles meant 40 minutes for Tayshaun Prince, and the good news – other than Monroe ’s continued emergence – was he posted season highs of 20 points and seven boards. Less than a week after he expressed frustration, even as he urged the need for patience and optimism, with the lack of offensive flow, he sees signs of progress.
“The last few games, we’ve done some good things offensively,” he said. “We got stagnant at some points and other teams have taken over, but the offense has opened up a little better than it was before. Now we’ve just got to continue to sustain it.”
Ben Gordon added 15 points, making 3 of 5 from the arc, and six assists against only one turnover. And Rodney Stuckey came off the bench to play 27 minutes – he’d been limited to 20 in the two games since returning from a groin strain – and give the Pistons 14 points and six assists. Stuckey’s been a big part of the boost in offensive potency.
“You have another guy who can attack north and south as opposed to playing east and west,” Frank said. “You have more paint attacks. He gets you into the penalty.”
Stuckey, who said the groin is still an issue and expects it to nag at him throughout the season but not limit him, says he still needs to improve his conditioning level.
“I’ve still got to pick that up,” he said. “It just comes with playing and practicing.”
The Pistons actually will squeeze a practice in on Monday – their first in nearly two weeks, a nod to the compacted schedule – and then head off for another road back to back. Expect the majority of that practice to be devoted to defense.
“At times, it’s going to be disjointed,” Frank said. “That’s why, defensively, we have to tighten up the bootstraps. At home, you can’t allow a team to shoot 52 percent. At times, we’re going to run out of points. That’s when we have to dig that much deeper on the defensive end and know we have to make teams play against a set defense.”