Drought in Dallas

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – The Pistons scored perhaps with too much ease for the first 18 minutes at Dallas, scoring 36 points and at several junctures appearing on the verge of stretching their lead beyond low double digits. Then the Mavericks turned the screws defensively and the Pistons went into a dreadful drought, missing 27 of 32 shots during a stretch that spanned the second and third quarters. The Pistons scored just 41 points over the final 30 minutes in a 92-77 loss to the Mavs. O.J. Mayo, held to three points in the first half, exploded for 16 in the third quarter when he shot 4 of 5 from the 3-point line and finished with 27. Brandon Knight scored 20 to lead the Pistons, 18 in the first half.

BLUE COLLAR – Jason Maxiell barely touched the ball on the Pistons’ side of half court, but he sure touched it often on the other end, grabbing six defensive rebounds and blocking three Dallas shots in the first quarter alone. Maxiell, returning to his hometown, finished with 10 points, 12 boards and five blocks one night after holding Zach Randolph to eight points and five rebounds in Memphis.

RED FLAG – Just as an early flurry of turnovers prevented the Pistons from seizing control of their game at Memphis on Friday, they sprung leaks on their defensive boards early against Dallas. The Pistons led by three after one quarter, but could have been up double digits if not for the seven offensive rebounds Dallas converted into eight second-chance points. They could have used the cushion, because they confoundingly couldn’t score at the rim all night. Greg Monroe had a handful of terrific scoring chances early, but three of his first four shots were blocked near the rim and the fourth was a hurried and missed layup attempt. Monroe finished 4 of 17.

DALLAS – Here’s the way it usually works with developing NBA teams: They get one problem addressed, another one crops up out of nowhere. Sometimes, it seems like an endless cycle. And sometimes, problems addressed once circle their way back into the mix before cycling out of their system.

So it is for the Pistons these days. On a Friday night in Memphis, turnovers undermine their shot to beat the team with the NBA’s best record. On a Saturday night in Dallas, frustration bubbles over when bunny after bunny rolls off the rim and points keep refusing to go up on the scoreboard.

“Did you see the type of shots we were getting? We missed 29 shots within 2 feet of the rim,” Lawrence Frank said with a mixture of incredulity and frustration after the 92-77 loss to Dallas was in the books. “The problem is we’ve got to make those shots, then the next thing is we’ve got to get back.”

The Pistons controlled the game for a solid 18 minutes despite a flurry of Dallas offensive rebounds – seven in the first quarter that allowed the Mavs eight second-chance points to stay close – and all of those easy misses. Nobody wallowed in greater frustration than Greg Monroe, who shot 4 of 17 and had the tone set early. Three of his first four shots were blocked and the fourth was an easy missed layup.

Monroe was still beating himself up in the locker room after his eight-point, 15-rebound night.

“I think I was rushing from jump,” he said. “Even on those shots that got blocked, I could have taken my time a little bit more, made a smarter play. How I finished at the basket tonight was unacceptable. I have to play better. I’ve got to convert those. There’s no excuses. My teammates played too hard tonight for me not to convert those shots.”

All the missed shots frustrated Frank, but what Dallas did with them really nettled him. By his count, the Mavs scored 37 transition points and O.J. Mayo scored 18 of his 27 – all but three after halftime – off of fast breaks.

“I’ve never met anyone who wants to miss,” he said. “These are great shots, but we’ve got to get back. Is it hard to recover from? Yeah, but to win, you’ve got to do hard stuff. In an ideal world, you’d love to finish those things. We didn’t finish ’em, but there’s still not any excuse not to get back and get our defense set.”

The Pistons led 44-33 with three minutes left in the first half, then scored only 33 points in the final 27 minutes, including just 11 in a third quarter when the Mavs went from down six to up eight. The Pistons at one point, spanning the middle two quarters, shot 5 of 32. And after committing only three first-half turnovers, they coughed it up 13 times in the second half, extending Dallas’ fast-break chances.

“A lot of easy bunnies, 5-footers, that we missed, but in the second half O.J. got hot,” said Jason Maxiell, who shined upon returning to his hometown with 12 boards and five blocked shots to go with 10 points. “That was the main concert and that’s what pretty much took over the game. Our misses led to their easy buckets. They got going and it hard to slow them down.”

In a game filled with cringe-worthy plays in which the Pistons squandered chances to stretch a lead they held for most of the first half and into the third quarter, the one that might stick with the Pistons longest came not quite three minutes into the second half. The Pistons led by nine when Kyle Singler, who bottled up Mayo – leading the Mavs in scoring at 20 points a game – in the first half, picked off a Mayo pass and headed the other way looking for easy transition points.

But Singler dribbled into traffic near mid-court and got stripped from behind, a turnover that led to a Mayo 3-pointer before the Pistons could retreat. Kick-started, Mayo erupted for 16 points in the quarter and hit three more triples.

“We just have to have more resolve,” Frank said. “This was a game that could have gone either way. You look at the box score and say, ‘The Pistons got beat handily.’ But it easily – and not to take anything away from Dallas – easily could have been a whole different ballgame.”