Drummond and Davis were widely considered the top two candidates to become the No. 1 pick in 2012 before the 2011-12 college season began and Drummond’s productivity didn’t come close to matching expectations.
That bit of serendipity allowed the Pistons to get a player with the ninth pick who has clearly demonstrated there should have been a spirited predraft debate about the merits of Drummond vs. Davis for the No. 1 pick.
More than the intrigue of seeing Drummond and Davis line up side by side, though, Drummond’s absence was felt on Monday for what he could have provided to a team that needed every bit of the athleticism, defensive presence and sheer energy he so often gave them in the season’s first 50 games.
Coming off consecutive wins over San Antonio, snapping the Spurs’ 11-game win streak, and at Milwaukee, the Pistons simply got outplayed – and, by their own admission, outworked – by the 17-34 New Orleans Hornets in a 105-86 loss.
“They just outplayed us, simple as that,” New Orleans native son Greg Monroe said. “They outworked us. They played harder than us.”
“You just look at what they put into the game vs. what we put into the game,” Lawrence Frank said. “They deserved to kick our butt and they did.”
The Pistons lost their share of games with Drummond in the lineup this season, of course, and as recently as two weeks ago they got similarly outworked by Milwaukee in a lopsided home loss even with Drummond. But there have also been many games in which a high-energy infusion from the bench – Drummond central to the cause – has turned sluggish performances into wins, or at least brought the Pistons into position to win.
“He’s definitely a big part of what we do,” Monroe said. “Him being out puts us at a disadvantage. The energy that he brings on both ends, it was a big help for us. I’m pretty sure he would have affected the game in some way – I’m pretty sure of that.”
Davis, for his part, showed that being the No. 1 pick doesn’t mean he comes to the NBA a finished product. Though Davis did grab eight rebounds and block four shots, he scored one point and missed all seven of his shots, many of them badly.
But the Hornets didn’t need his scoring with Robin Lopez, an improved player in his fifth season, dropping 13 points on the Pistons in the first quarter on his way to 23 plus 10 rebounds. Ryan Anderson hit the biggest shots for New Orleans, including two triples in the last minute of the first half to boost its halftime lead to 14 and a dagger inside the last five minutes after the Pistons had shown a pulse in cutting a 20-point deficit to 12. Anderson scored 34 off the bench.
Scoring proved an immense struggle for the Pistons, but it didn’t start that way. They scored the game’s first eight points – four different players scoring on each of their first four possessions – and New Orleans coach Monty Williams burned a timeout before the game was two minutes old. It deserves consideration as the best use of a timeout in the NBA all season.
Because it went straight downhill from there for the Pistons. New Orleans tied the game before the Pistons scored another point and outscored them 55-33 over the rest of the half. The Pistons didn’t get any closer than 11 the rest of the way, and that came early in the third quarter.
“I think we’ve played some good basketball throughout the week, but this is a definite step back,” Kyle Singler said. “We didn’t really play well. Guys feel that. We’re going to come in tomorrow with a new mind-set and just get ready for the next game. It’s very disappointing. You don’t want to play like this. You’ve just got to move on.”
It was just the sixth game this season the Pistons failed to make at least 30 field goals and the first such game since they lost to the Clippers on Dec. 17, nearly two months ago.
“I don’t think guys were out there taking bad shots,” Monroe said. “I don’t think that’s been the case at any point this season. You make some, you miss some. They did a good job playing defense. We didn’t get as many looks as we did in previous games.”
The Pistons had come in on an offensive roll, too, especially since adding Jose Calderon, scoring 119 and 105 in the two weekend wins. They missed a slew of shots at the rim, including two fairly uncontested transition layups early in the second half that could have turned momentum.
“You can definitely get a lift,” Singler said of those opportunities. “You can also get knocked back when you’ve got easy baskets you can make and you miss them. If those go in, it gives our team a boost.”
“Some of it we just didn’t finish at the rim,” Frank said. “Some of ’em we put up some questionable shots at the rim and some of ’em maybe there was some contact. Then we started to get frustrated and we allowed that to impact in all phases of our game.
“Every mistake we made, they made us pay. After scoring some of the numbers we did, maybe we just thought it was going to come to us and it doesn’t work like that. Tough lesson.”