Starting Over

Pistons fall flat in first game after break, fall by 29 to Philly

TEAM COLORS

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

– The evidence suggests, scant though it might be, suggests the Pistons just don’t match up very well with the Philadelphia 76ers. Tuesday’s 97-68 loss means the Pistons are not just 0-3 against Philly this season, but that they’ve been outscored by 73 points . As in the first two games, Philadelphia killed the Pistons in transition and off of their turnovers. The 76ers scored 22 points off turnovers in the first half alone, building a 16-point lead, scoring 30 points in transition for the game.

BLUE COLLAR – Andre Iguodala showed why Eastern Conference coaches voted him to the All-Star team with a typically effective all-around game. Iguodala, who registered a triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) when Philadelphia beat the Pistons in late January, was on course for another but wound up playing only 30 minutes as the game got out of hand. He finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds and he was as responsible as any of his teammates for the perimeter defensive pressure that nullified any offensive effort the Pistons could muster outside the paint.

RED FLAG – Despite their sloppiness with the ball, the Pistons still would have been in the game if they’d have been able to make a shot. They didn’t score a point outside the paint in the first half, Rodney Stuckey’s 8-foot runner in the first quarter their deepest score aside from the six free throws they managed. Particularly cold were Brandon Knight, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, who shot a combined 2 of 20 with Prince’s two baskets both coming on spinning moves at the rim. The Pistons shot 35 percent in the first half in falling behind by 16 points and scoring only 34. They finally registered their first points outside the paint when Brandon Knight hit a 3-point shot in the third quarter to make the score 56-37.

Teams come back from the All-Star break focused on a fresh start. The Pistons came back and started from scratch. The progress they’d shown since Feb. 1? Not in evidence. The team that began the season 4-20, struggling with turnovers and to find anything approaching an offensive rhythm? Yeah, that team is the one that reassembled at The Palace.

Lawrence Frank knew what to expect, sort of. He talked before tipoff of the travails teams experience in their first game back after the break.

“That’s why you’ve got to grind,” he said after the 97-68 loss to Philadelphia in which the Pistons tied their season-worst scoring output. “You’re not going to have rhythm. For the Sixers, they were able to turn their defense in order to get easy baskets. You’re able to get some rhythm. For us, did we have some open shots we missed? Of course. But it’s a grind game. These games are always funky.”

Two things made it especially funky: Pistons turnovers and unspeakably errant Pistons shooting. The Pistons committed 15 first-half turnovers for 22 Philadelphia points. It was the third quarter before the Pistons made their first basket outside the paint, and they were 1 of 22 outside the paint through three quarters, finishing 5 of 36.

“Everything was a problem tonight,” Damien Wilkins said. “We turned the ball over, didn’t handle the ball very well, didn’t get back in transition. That was pretty much it, start to finish.”

Greg Monroe got the Pistons off to a fast start, scoring nine quick points as they led 12-8. Rodney Stuckey got inside for a few early baskets and went to the line four times in the first quarter, as well. They finished with 20 and 17 points, but the rest of the team was frigid. Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon were a combined 2 of 20 in the first half, both baskets by Prince on spinning moves at the rim. The Pistons shot .316 for the game.

“We just got off to a slow start, turned the ball over – the trickle-down effect – and the rest was history,” Prince said. “What else is there to say? Still on vacation.”

Maybe it’s just that the Pistons simply don’t match up well at all with the 76ers, who improved to 3-0 against them this season, one win as lopsided as the next. Philly, which lost five straight and seven of nine games before the All-Star break, won by 21 and 23 at home in January and in all three wins the 76ers have made the Pistons pay a heavy price for turnovers. They averaged 21 points off Pistons miscues in their first two meetings; they upped it to 24 in this one.

“Seventeen steals in the game, 18 of their first 24 (points) were at the rim,” Frank said. “This is the same problem we’ve had with this team now, this is the third time. The goal was to get them to play against our set defense. We were unable to do it.”

Six 76ers scored in double figures and their two leading scorers came off of their bench, Thaddeus Young with 20 and Louis Williams with 13. Philly’s bench outscored Detroit’s 47-15 and essentially decided the game by outscoring the Pistons 11-0 to start the second quarter, stretching a two-point lead to 13. The only starter on the floor for either team to start the quarter was Philly guard Jodie Meeks.

“The game changed to begin that second quarter and we were fighting uphill,” Frank said. “They have one of the best benches in the league and that’s why they’re in first place in the Atlantic Division. They have a team of depth. We knew they were going to be a hungry dog. … We just need to play a whole lot better.”