That Stings

Pistons, coming off 2 straight big wins, fall flat to New Orleans

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – The Pistons scored on their first four possessions and led New Orleans 8-0 less than two minutes after tipoff, but not much went right after that. Robin Lopez, who averages 11 points, had 13 before the first quarter was over on his way to 23 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Anderson came off the Hornets’ bench to score 31 points, hitting five triples, including two back-breakers in the final 46 seconds of the first half and one late in the game after the pistons had cut a 20-point deficit to 12. Rodney Stuckey scored 19 points, 13 of them at the foul line, to lead the Pistons. Greg Monroe recorded his seventh straight double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. On a night anticipated as the first meeting between rookies Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis, the Pistons sorely missed Drummond’s energy and athleticism.

BLUE COLLAR – The Pistons were intent on landing a big man in the 2010 draft. If Greg Monroe hadn’t been available, it’s likely the Pistons would have taken Ed Davis, with some consideration to Ekpe Udoh. But Al Farouq-Aminu was on their short list, too, and after not showing a lot in his first two seasons the light is coming on him for this year. Farouq-Aminu, a terrific athlete who shows potential to also have a polished skill set someday, had a double-double by midway through the third quarter and finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

RED FLAG – The Pistons won a game Saturday with the odds stacked against them. They’d played on Friday – and snapped San Antonio’s 11-game win streak in the process – and then traveled to Milwaukee, where the Bucks were waiting for them after being idle Friday. The shoe was on the other foot Monday. New Orleans lost at Toronto on Sunday while the Pistons were home and off. And after jumping to the quick 8-0 lead, the Pistons were in position to bury a tired team. But the Hornets dominated from that point on and held the Pistons to 36 percent shooting while outrebounding them 49-41.

On a night fans were robbed of what should have been the first meeting of rookies Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis, the Pistons felt the sting of Drummond’s absence for the first time since learning late last week he’d miss at least a month with a back injury.

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.”