Downed in Dallas

Mavs shoot 68 percent inside arc, score 116 to pull away from Pistons


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

WHITE HOT – Dallas opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run, saw the Pistons answer back with a 9-0 run to pull within five, then responded with another 8-0 run of their own and went on to a 116-106 win, handing the Pistons their fourth straight loss and 11th in their last 14 games. The Pistons stayed in the game primarily by forcing turnovers (17 for 23 points) and hitting the offensive glass (a 19-1 advantage in second-chance points) despite Dallas shooting 60 percent for the first half and 58 percent for the game. Brandon Jennings scored 23 of his 26 points in the second half to lead the Pistons, while Josh Smith added 25. Dirk Nowitzki led five Dallas players in double figures with 28 points.

BLUE COLLAR – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continues his January surge, playing another solid all-around game for the Pistons. The rookie finished with nine points, four steals and three rebounds. His most important contribution was containing Dallas’ explosive Monta Ellis, who averages 20 points a game. Ellis finished with just 11 points, limited to only eight shot attempts, and committed eight turnovers.

RED FLAG – Mo Cheeks cut his first-half bench rotation to just three players – and only used Josh Harrellson in the last three minutes to prevent Andre Drummond from picking up a third foul – but didn’t get much in the way of efficient scoring from the two mainstays of the second unit, Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler. They combined to make just 7 of 22 shots, though Stuckey managed to hit 5 of 6 free throws to finish with 11 points.

DALLAS – The Pistons did a lot right. They forced 17 Dallas turnovers and converted them into 23 points, winning that game within the game by 11 points. They hit the offensive glass 17 times and dominated second-chance points, 19-1.

But what the Pistons did wrong, they did very wrong. And they did it against the wrong team.

Dallas might have the most expansive playbook in the league and Rick Carlisle can afford the complexity because of the offensive IQ of his basketball team, starting with but hardly limited to the singularly gifted Dirk Nowtizki.

With Nowitzki scoring 28 points in just 32 minutes on only 16 shot attempts, Dallas shot 58 percent – and an astounding 68 percent inside the 3-point arc. You can dissect every other number of the stat sheet, but nothing else much matters when you make better than two of every three shots inside the arc.

“They just moved the ball really well,” Greg Monroe said after Dallas’ 116-106 win, the 11th loss in the last 14 games for the Pistons and their fourth straight to send them a season-worst 10 games under .500 at 17-27. “They put us in a lot of situations where we had to rotation and made a lot of shots off of drive and kick.”

Their defensive shortcomings overshadowed a winning effort at the other end. The Pistons shot 47 percent for the game, 54.5 percent in the second half when they scored 60 points.

Brandon Jennings scored 23 of his 26 after halftime when he made 9 of 15 shots. Josh Smith scored 25 and Greg Monroe dropped 20 on 9 of 13 shooting. The Pistons had brilliant stretches, especially in the third quarter when they scored 35 points and twice took one-point leads after opening the half on a 9-0 run to erode Dallas’ 10-point halftime lead.

“We made a nice run,” Mo Cheeks said. “I thought Brandon played well in the third quarter. That was the difference of us getting back in the game, the way he played, pushing the ball, trying to get some easy baskets. That’s what we did. We got some stops, although they still shot 58 percent for the game, but we got some stops and we were able to get some easy baskets.”

"I think we can get better. We have to work on our perimeter defense were they’re going inside the paint or beating us off the dribble."

- Maurice Cheeks on the defense
Full game quotes
But Dallas got them all game long. When the Mavs weren’t turning the ball over, they scored with frightful efficiency, beating the Pistons on the perimeter and punishing them for the holes created by rotating helpers.

“It’s something we have to work on,” Cheeks said, “where they’re not getting inside our paint or beating us off the dribble. We can get a lot better guarding the ball. That’s one thing we have to do because it puts so much pressure on our big guys.”

The second half was a game of runs. Dallas opened the fourth quarter with 10 consecutive points to stretch its lead to 13. With Dallas ahead by 14 with 7:15 to play, the Pistons made their final charge with a 9-0 run to pull within five. Carlisle got a timeout with 5:43 to play and got four baskets on Dallas’ next four possessons: Vince Carter on an athletic drive, ex-Piston Joe Calderon on a 2-foot runner, Calderon again with a jump shot and DeJuan Blair with a 10-footer in the paint.

That 8-0 run – in which the Pistons had a Kyle Singler layup blocked to fuel a Dallas break, Andre Drummond commit a traveling violation and Josh Smith launch an errant triple – was a killer.

“They executed really well, especially coming out of timeouts,” Monroe said. “Once our run was over, they got back to executing and were able to get some good shots.”

Andre Drummond, a game after recording his first career double-double, had a rare low-impact game, finishing with just four points, six rebounds and no blocked shots in 26 minutes. Cheeks pulled him 11 seconds into the third quarter when the ball went out of bounds.

“It was about a play,” Cheeks said. “He went right back in. It’s a learning experience. I don’t think he did it right. We took him out and put him right back in. … He just had a bad game. The guy’s 20 years old. We’re not going to expect him to be a machine every night and go get 18, 19 rebounds. He didn’t have a good game.”

“Everybody has some games where it’s just not going for them,” Monroe said. “He’ll be fine. I’m not worried about him. He’s shown how good he can be. It’s one game.”

And Drummond was hardly alone in not being able to slow down Dallas’ well-schooled offense.

“It’s a work in progress,” Cheeks said of Detroit’s defense. “It’s something we’ve got to do, work on our perimeter defense. We have to get a little bit better on our perimeter defense because it puts so much pressure on our big guys.”