Comeback Comes Up Short

Pistons go 4 of 24 from arc to undermine comeback from 18 down at Boston

TEAM COLORS

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

White Hot – Greg Monroe’s 35th double-double of the season – most by a Piston since the turn of the century, topping the 34 of Ben Wallace during the 2003-04 title season – was an emphatic one as he put up 24 points and 17 rebounds, but it wasn’t quite enough to lead the Pistons back from an 18-point deficit. From the midway point of the third quarter to the same spot of the fourth, the Pistons outscored Boston 28-13 to get within three points. They got within two, 93-91, but Boston held on behind a 34-point night from Jeff Green and 17 apiece from Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass for a 98-93 win. Rodney Stuckey, starting in place of the injured Jose Calderon (right arm), added 22 for the Pistons.

BLUE COLLAR – Two of the players who have had to battle for minutes all season and have at various times found themselves outside the rotation, Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva, contributed in different ways as the Pistons came back from 18 points behind. Villanueva didn’t experienced much success shooting the ball (2 of 16), but he was very active on the boards, keeping balls alive on more than one occasion to lead to easy scoring chances for teammates. He finished with four points, but five assists and nine rebounds. Jerebko, coming off a 15-point outing in Monday’s win at Toronto, was every bit as effective against Boston. He contributed 19 points and five rebounds and battled defensively down the stretch against Paul Pierce. Both players entered the game midway through the third quarter when the deficit had grown to 18 and that’s when the Pistons launched their comeback.

RED FLAG – The 3-point line killed the Pistons as they shot 4 of 24 while Boston hit 7 of 20. The difference was glaring in the final minute when Charlie Villanueva missed an open look from the right wing that would have put the Pistons ahead and seconds later Boston’s Jeff Green canned one from the corner to put the Celtics ahead by five with 45 seconds to play. Villanueva had another open triple with 18 seconds left to tie, but missed that, as well. Villanueva finished 0 of 8 from the arc and Rodney Stuckey 1 of 6.

BOSTON – Lawrence Frank struck gold with an unlikely lineup to win Monday at Toronto and nearly did it again with a new mix Wednesday at Boston. Down 18 midway through the third quarter, the Pistons came within three minutes by the midway mark in the fourth.

But for miserable 3-point shooting numbers and a half-dozen turnovers in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pistons would have left Boston with a five-game winning streak over the Celtics and a comeback for the ages. Instead, they sat in a locker room with dumbfounded looks as the reality of some staggering shooting numbers sunk in.

“Two for 17?” Jonas Jerebko repeated when he heard Charlie Villanueva’s shooting numbers. Nobody takes more 3-pointers as a percentage of his shots than Villanueva and there’s nobody the Pistons would rather have taking them, either, but he missed all eight of his shots from distance against the Celtics, including two in the final minute – one for the lead, one for a last-possession tie.

“Charlie’s a shooter. He’s going to keep shooting it. Two for 17 – we could have won by 10. But the ball didn’t bounce our way. We got great looks. We shared the ball. I’m happy with the way we played. We had some unfortunate missed ones.”

Villanueva and Jerebko were a part of the mix for the game’s final 18 minutes. Frank waved them on when the Pistons fell 18 behind for Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. When they immediately started cutting into the lead, Frank kept riding Villanueva and Jerebko, surrounding Monroe with them for the entire fourth quarter, mostly with Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey – starting in place of Jose Calderon, who sat out with what the Pistons termed a right upper arm irritation – in the backcourt.

“Jonas and Charlie gave us great minutes,” Frank said. “When you get there and you’re fighting, it’s hard to take a guy out, especially when they’re making different plays.”

Villanueva, indeed, would have been in the spotlight for one of his best all-around games if only he had shot it with anything approaching his normal accuracy. He dished out five assists and grabbed nine rebounds, while Jerebko pitched in with 19 points, five boards and three steals. But the missed shots haunted Villanueva.

“I’d take them any time,” he said. “Just a rough night for me offensively. I couldn’t buy a basket. It seemed like there was a lid on the rim for me. I got some good looks – just missed ’em. My teammates did a great job of finding me and keep finding me. I give them all the praises. But I feel like I let ’em down.”

“He rebounded the ball. You think about his energy. You think about some of the passes he made,” Frank said. “When you have a shooter, you just think, over the course of time, the law of averages, it’s going to come. And he had some great looks. Just didn’t fall his way.”

The Pistons had some head-scratching misses closer to the rim, too, missing 32 shots in the paint. No two were more cringe-inducing than uncontested layups missed by Villanueva and Knight, who shot 2 of 10.

The loss obscured a heavyweight game from Greg Monroe, who recorded his 35th double-double with 24 points and 17 boards, nine on the offensive end, as the Pistons made up for 37 percent shooting by pummeling the Celtics 52-34 on the boards. But Monroe, like Villanueva, was left to lament the things that went wrong for him. Two of the six turnovers the Pistons committed in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, miscues that blunted their comeback, were charged to Monroe.

“I had a couple turnovers that were big,” he said. “It’s tough losing like this, but guys showed a lot of fight.”

Andre Drummond had eight points and nine rebounds in a little more than 20 minutes, playing his longest consecutive stint with nine first-quarter minutes since returning four games ago from a 22-game absence.

“It was just too long (sitting out to bring Drummond back),” Frank said. “And he was right at 20 minutes. Maybe you push him to 24. Once that group got it rolling, it was the point of no return and the last thing I wanted to do was bring him back dry and risk him pulling a hamstring. It wouldn’t be prudent.”

Calderon will have his arm injury looked at on Thursday and the Pistons still hope to get Will Bynum back from his right hand injury. In the meantime, Frank continues to tinker with lineup combinations even as the season is down to its final six games. After a few discouraging home games last week when struggling teams pulled away for decisive wins, Frank was buoyed by the spark the Pistons showed in a 1-2 road trip that saw them lose in the final minute to playoff-bound Chicago and Boston.

“To be able to fight through and reverse it and show resolve, I’m proud of that,” he said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t convert some shots. But you always look, are you getting good shots for your guys? And, especially down the stretch, our guys had pretty good looks.”