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Pistons defense gave up nearly 7 more points a game in Drummond’s absence

The Pistons look to regain their defensive prowess when Andre Drummond returns to the lineup tonight against the Raptors.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
Andre Drummond not only returns to the Pistons tonight, he’ll make his first NBA start, alongside Greg Monroe.

“We’re going to try, as much as we can, to maximize those guys’ minutes in terms of when they’re on the floor,” Lawrence Frank said after Friday’s morning shootaround. “Especially with Andre building up his minutes, another good reason to start him and make sure those guys are together.”

Frank, who dropped pretty strong hints on Thursday that Drummond’s return would come tonight against Toronto, said Drummond had been told just before he got hurt that he was moving into the starting lineup. The move would have come in the days just before the All-Star break, Frank said.

The numbers tell the story of just how badly the Pistons suffered defensively in Drummond’s absence. In the first 48 games, the Pistons surrendered 96.8 points per game; in the last 24, that number has jumped 6.5 points to 103.3. In the first 48, teams shot .442 overall and .334 from the 3-point line, numbers that put the Pistons solidly in the top 10 for most of the season and in the top five for part of it; in the last 24, teams have riddled the Pistons by shooting .490 overall and an alarming .426 from the 3-point line.

The gap can’t all be attributed to Drummond, of course. His absence coincided almost exactly with the exit of Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye, who went to Memphis in the trade that brought Jose Calderon to the Pistons. That caused additional lineup disruption, most prominently the shifting of Brandon Knight to shooting guard. And Knight has missed seven games since Drummond went out, three with a knee injury and four with a sprained ankle.

“The thing I want to make clear is to say Andre is back, our problems are solved, that is the furthest thing from the truth there is,” Frank said. “We’ve got to remember. Andre is a 19-year-old player who learning a whole lot. He stands out on our team because his athleticism, length, quickness is very different than what we have. He’s a valuable guy and to say how much we’ve missed him or not is hard, because to me you always have enough to win.”

The Pistons, who were officially eliminated from the playoffs with Milwaukee’s Thursday win over the Los Angeles Lakers, have 10 games remaining.