A Little Short

Cold-shooting Pistons can't complete comeback at Toronto

TEAM COLORS

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

– WHITE HOT – The Pistons scored 37 points in the first quarter of their preseason-opening win over Toronto, but two nights later they managed only 34 against the same team in the entire first half. Struggling to recover from a cold start in which their first basket didn’t come until nearly five minutes into the game, the Pistons still managed to tie Friday’s game a few minutes into the fourth quarter at 58 on Slava Kravtsov’s first NBA basket. Later, Kravtsov’s two free throws and consecutive dunks put the Pistons ahead 68-67, but Toronto rookie Terrence Ross countered with a triple and the Raptors went on a 7-0 run in an 82-75 loss. Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons with 14 points, hitting all five of his free throws, and Slava Kravtsov added 10. The Pistons, who shot 35 percent and committed 24 turnovers, play at Milwaukee on Saturday night.

BLUE COLLAR – Kyle Singler isn’t necessarily a pure shooter, as rookies Kim English and Khris Middleton could eventually prove as they adjust to the speed of the NBA game, but he can be a most effective scorer. He showed glimpses of that in Friday’s second quarter. After missing a few corner jump shots, he knocked two down – one just inside the 3-point arc, one triple – and consistently showed the ability to get himself open for those shots for one simple reason: he never stops running. Singler also scored a fast-break layup by simply outsprinting the defense to present Jonny Flynn an easy transition target. Singler finished with nine points and three rebounds in 24 minutes, playing the second and fourth quarters.

RED FLAG – They were using two camp invitees in the backcourt as part of a group that had never played together in a game, so the 11 turnovers the second unit committed in the second quarter really didn’t come as much of a surprise. With Jonny Flynn and Terrence Williams in the backcourt and rookies Kyle Singler and Slava Kravtsov (three fouls in the first six minutes) and Andre Drummond splitting time at center alongside Austin Daye, the Pistons were outscored 14-2 to start the quarter, falling behind by eight points after the first unit recovered from a 0-of-9 start to build a four-point lead after the first quarter.

TORONTO - In the fight for a rotation spot among the crowded forward positions, exhibiting a unique skill or disproving a suspected weakness is one way to catch Lawrence Frank's attention. Kyle Singler and Austin Daye took steps in that direction Friday night with their first action of the preseason.

Neither one shot the ball particularly well, which put them in good company. The Pistons missed their first nine shots and shot 35 percent in their 82-75 loss to Toronto. Daye shot 2 of 11, Singler 4 of 12.

But if Daye is going to factor at power forward, he'll have to defend well enough inside and hold his own on the boards. It was a mixed bag on the first score - Toronto's Ed Davis fought his way inside of Daye a few times en route to a 12-point night - but Daye did use his extraordinary reach and quickness to the ball to grab nine rebounds, more than anyone on either side.

"If I'm not knocking down shots, you've got to do something out there," Daye said. "I was just trying to get a lot of offensive boards and making all my box outs and trying to rebound. It's tough when you're missing so many easy ones. I got a lot of easy ones. I was making those in practice. I'm not really worried - they'll fall. But I was trying to do everything I could to get as many boards as I could out there. That's important, too."

"He did some good things," Frank said. "We kept on telling him, 'Austin, keep shooting it.' They were good, open shots. You've got to stay confident in what you do. This is going to be a long process. There aren't any snap judgments made off of one preseason game. You've got to be able to defend the post, too. Davis was able to get some shots at the rim. Austin's initial post defense was good and sometimes the ball got in there and Davis got middle. Austin's learning."

Singler finished with nine points, three boards and two steals in 24 minutes, playing the entire second and fourth quarters with a second unit of Slava Kravtsov and the backcourt of Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn, both in camp on non-guaranteed deals. One of Singler's great gifts is his non-stop motor, a player who always seems to be available to receive a pass in scoring position in transition.

"One of my strengths as a basketball player is to move without the ball," he said. "Guys found me open. That's a strength of mine - find the open spot, cut and make plays that way."

Singler missed his first four shots before knocking down two long corner jump shots, one just inside the 3-point arc and one triple, which brought the entire Pistons' bench to its feet. A few minutes later, he ran the floor and converted a tough transition layup.

"Kyle is a high-effort player," Frank said. "It was good he was able to play a lot of minutes."

Two other Pistons rookies, Kim English and Khris Middleton, have yet to play. That will change in Saturday night's game at Milwaukee, Frank said, adding that there could be a few different starters, as well.

The other rookie, Kravtsov, looked a little awed by the moment in a first half in which he picked up three fouls in six minutes. Frank replaced him with Andre Drummond, who had an emphatic blocked shot and overpowered Davis, attempting to intentionally foul him, to score a last-second basket.

Kravtsov bounced back in a big way in the fourth quarter, however, finishing with 10 points and three boards. His consecutive dunks gave the Pistons a brief one-point lead. The first came off an offensive rebound as Kravtsov exhibited his power and quick-jumping skill, going up without first gathering himself and slamming before the defense could react. The second came in transition, when he showed another of his unique traits, the rare ability to run the floor for a big man.

"That was good to see," Frank said. "Sometimes guys get their first taste of it and now take a seat. We were going to go back with him regardless and he bounced back well."

After a night they barely made a third of their shots, at the end of the second week of an industrious training camp, Frank will be looking to see how the Pistons bounce back Saturday night at Milwaukee, looking to see who else among those players fighting for playing time at crowded positions can show him something to help produce wins down the road.