Turnover Trouble

Pistons mistakes allow Memphis to boost NBA-best record in 12-point win


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

White Hot – The Pistons pushed Memphis, which came into the game with the league’s best record at 11-2 and sporting a 7-1 home record, throughout a first half in which their biggest challenge was hanging on to the basketball. The Pistons led much of the first quarter after a 10-0 run and it was a one-possession game for the first six minutes of the second quarter until the Grizzlies built a 10-point lead that the Pistons cut to eight by halftime. They managed a tie at 57 midway through the third quarter but never again led. Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 17 points and nine rebounds and Tayshaun Prince added 15 points and four assists.

BLUE COLLAR – Much is made, and rightly so, of Memphis’ 1-2 interior tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Lawrence Frank called Gasol a top-three center and Randolph a top-five power forward. The Pistons largely contained them, though, holding them to a combined 25 points and 16 rebounds. But Memphis also got terrific production out of backup big men Marresse Speights (six points, seven boards) and Darrell Arthur (11 points), including a combined 13 points and six rebounds in the first half when they helped Memphis establish breathing room.

RED FLAG – Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Memphis is No. 4 in the league at forcing them and the Pistons surely increased its standing by coughing it up 21 times, including 13 in the first half that Memphis converted into 22 points. Given their 17-point advantage in points off turnovers at the break, the Pistons did well otherwise to still be trailing by just eight points. The Pistons finished with 22 turnovers for 31 Memphis points compared to 12 Memphis turnovers for 10 Pistons points.

MEMPHIS – The team with the NBA’s best record doesn’t require much help winning at home, where the Memphis Grizzlies were 7-1 before the Pistons rolled into town. The Pistons gave them that help, anyway.

Undermining their chances to win on a night they were otherwise capable of an eyebrow-raising upset, the Pistons gave the ball back to Memphis 13 times in the first half alone, good for 22 points. Just when they cleaned things up, forging a 57-all tie with Memphis over the first six minutes of the third quarter when they turned it over not at all, their need for holiday giving returned in force.

On consecutive possessions, the Pistons coughed it up and Memphis, now a league-best 12-2, converted each one into three-point trips – a layup and free throw by Mike Conley off a Kyle Singler pass, then a Conley triple off a Jason Maxiell bobble – and suddenly it was a six-point deficit again. So many times, Memphis baskets off turnovers came seconds after the Pistons appeared to be about to score themselves.

“That’s what killed us tonight,” Greg Monroe lamented after his 17-point, nine-rebound night went to waste in part because he was guilty of seven turnovers. “We have to find a way to convert those plays and if we don’t turn it over as many times as we do, we probably give ourselves a better chance.”

The Pistons committed 22 for the game, good for 31 Memphis points, a 21-point edge over the output they managed off 12 Memphis turnovers. On a night both teams struggled to score in their half-court offense, that type of disparity was even more glaring.

“Crippling,” Lawrence Frank said. “Memphis is obviously a very, very good team, but how many of them were forced? How many were unforced? You think about the number of transition opportunities we squandered, just being too careless with the ball. You give ’em 31 of their points off 22 of our turnovers. For the most part, our effort was right. We’ve just got to play smarter basketball.”

For all of that, the Pistons were still within eight points midway through the fourth quarter. Even as their defense kept forcing Memphis misses – the Grizzlies didn’t score a fourth-quarter point for almost four minutes – the Pistons couldn’t make a push, turnovers again their undoing.

“They are a very good defensive team, but I think a lot of our problems came from turnovers tonight, unforced turnovers, unforced errors,” said Brandon Knight, who contributed six to the total, five in the first half. “Gave ’em a lot of easy baskets. Just carelessness. Just not valuing the basketball as much as we should. There wasn’t really a whole lot of pressure, just a lot of it was mishandled passes, overdribbling, stuff like that.”

The Pistons mitigated the damage inflicted by the powerful inside pair of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, Jason Maxiell doing especially good work in helping limit Randolph to eight points and five rebounds. They pressured Memphis into 4 of 16 shooting from the 3-point line. And they won the rebound battle 46-39.

There wasn’t anything in the box score that indicated a Memphis win, in fact, until you got to the hideious turnover line.

“We battled,” Frank said. ‘We competed. Did a good job in the second half. But we shot ourselves in the foot. We don’t even get a shot up. We just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be to win the game.”