Felled in Philly

Pistons sputter from the start in 21-point loss to 76ers

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– On a night the Pistons shot 33 percent in the first half, it didn’t take a Jordanesque performance from anyone on the 76ers to keep them at arm’s length. Lou Williams, who has become one of the NBA’s most consistent sixth men, gave Philly more than enough punch. Williams played just nine minutes of the first half yet was the only player on either side in double figures, scoring 10 points on only three field-goal attempts, making both of this shots from beyond the arc and knocking down four free throws. Williams finished with 17 points. He helped as the 76ers went on a 14-0 run from the midway point of the first quarter to take command and roll to a 95-74 win over the Pistons, who fall to 4-17. Honorable mention: Andre Iguodala did the bare minimum for a triple-double – 10 points, 10 boards, 10 assists – to celebrate his 28th birthday in style. It was the first triple-double against the Pistons since some guy named LeBron James did it on March 6, 2010, before taking his talents away from the shores of Lake Erie.

BLUE COLLAR – Greg Monroe’s shooting woes symbolized the night for the Pistons. He hit his first shot of the night, a jumper, but missed an easy layup after grabbing an offensive rebound moments later and struggled around the rim after that, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds despite shooting just 6 of 19. But Monroe battled hard and fought through obvious frustration at not getting any calls – after getting hacked without a whistle for at least the third time, he even drew a technical foul. All of his four foul shots were taken in the second half. The Pistons, in fact, only attempted four free throws in the entire first half.

RED FLAG – When the Pistons struggle offensively – and they came into Saturday’s game 30th in scoring and 23rd in field-goal percentage – there have been two fairly common themes: turnovers and missed shots near the rim. Both areas lead to transition scoring chances the other way. In the first six possessions Saturday, the Pistons committed three turnovers and missed three shots at the rim. Still, they managed to lead 8-7 before Philadelphia went on a 14-0 to take control. The early start suggested a sluggishness that never really shook free. They battled – the Pistons held a 36-30 rebounding edge through three quarters and finished up 44-42 – but shot only 35 percent, a number inflated by a 9 of 19 fourth quarter.

After having their heart removed without benefit of anesthesia in a devastating home loss Friday, Saturday’s Pistons loss saw their heart simply beat out of rhythm all night. It started early and it really never stopped.

They led from the early minutes until 1.9 seconds of regulation before losing to Atlanta in overtime at The Palace, but this time they fell behind in the early minutes – a 14-0 Philadelphia run that began with an Andre Iguodala dunk fed off the backboard to himself – and spent the rest of the night running in quicksand and growing increasingly frustrated in a 95-74 loss that puts their record at 4-17 with a welcome stretch of eight games against floundering teams looming.

“It’s all about resolve,” said Lawrence Frank, who was curious to gauge his team’s reaction to the way it lost on Friday. “That’s what we talked about before the game. It’s how you react to that. Last night’s game is over. It’s not a college season, where one game defines your season. It’s an NBA season, where you run it back the next night. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to play the type of game we wanted to play.”

Three turnovers littered their first six possessions, broken up only by a Greg Monroe jump shot and three misses at the rim. The turnovers and the paint misses have been season-long bugaboos, components that more often than not put them on their heels defending against transition chances. Atlanta hung around on Friday because it hit just enough transition 3-pointers to stay close. When the Pistons attempted to get back into it after halftime at Philly, three 76ers triples in the third quarter snuffed out their hopes.

Despite everything that went wrong in the first half, they still managed to cut a 12-point deficit to five with five minutes left, but a 6-0 Philly run quickly got it back to 11 and the Pistons never got closer than nine after that.

“I didn’t think they played a great first half, either,” Frank said. “I thought whatever team would find a rhythm early in the third quarter would get a chance to get some separation. Unfortunately, it was them.”

“It’s the same thing,” said Monroe, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds but shot just 6 of 19, many of his misses coming in the paint. “Especially me personally. I have to convert at the rim. There’s no excuse for it. It’s nothing we have to go and try to figure out. We just have to finish at the rim. We missed a lot of easy shots. They do force some turnovers, but we have to execute more, play with a better pace and convert those easy layups we were missing.”

“It’s a struggle for us to finish at the rim,” Frank said. “We have to continue to work at it in skill development work. Guys obviously don’t go in there to miss. Sometimes we’re rushing shots around the rim. We’ve shown we can do it. But we have to be consistent with it, especially if those misses at the rim turn into transition opportunities for the opponent.”

How out of sync were the Pistons? Monroe, Tayshaun Prince – back with the team after a two-game absence due to a family matter – Jason Maxiell and Austin Daye were the only players to make more than one basket in the first half, shooting a combined 13 of 25. The five other players to play in the first two quarters combined to make one shot – in 17 tries.

“We had trouble scoring tonight,” Daye said. “I think our energy just wasn’t there. We were pretty tired. That’s really not an excuse. We’ve got to be able to make plays even though we’re tired, fight through fatigue and knock down some shots. But we weren’t in a good flow tonight, it looked like.”

The Pistons hovered just above or below the 30 percent shooting mark for three quarters, but shot 9 of 19 in a fourth quarter handed over to the bench – or as much of it was Frank could hand over, given that the Pistons still only have 11 players in uniform. Lou Williams led six 76ers in double figures with 17 off the bench. Iguodala, on his 28th birthday, did the bare minimum for a triple-double – 10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists – the first against the Pistons since LeBron James did it for the Cavs in March 2010.