A Warriors Win

Pistons absorb tough loss and now it gets tougher with 16 of final 25 on road


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

WHITE HOT – Golden State outscored the Pistons 15-6 down the stretch to pull away for a 104-96 win in what was a remarkably close game until the last 2:20, neither team leading by more than five points before then at any point in the second quarter. After Greg Monroe’s layup pulled the Pistons within a point at 95-94 with four minutes to play, they didn’t score on six straight possessions and fell behind by eight points. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry scored 19 points apiece for Golden State, which made 13 3-pointers. Monroe led the Pistons with 23 points and eight rebounds and Josh Smith added 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The first half was played at a frenetic pace and ended with Golden State leading 63-62 with both teams shooting 50 percent or better. With a 23-34 record, the Pistons now play 16 of their final 25 games on the road and are four games out of the final playoff spot. They fell to 11 games under .500 for the first time this season.

BLUE COLLAR – Kyle Singler, in his ninth game since moving into the starting lineup, has proven to be someone John Loyer doesn’t like to leave on the bench for long. Singler played 45 minutes on Monday and contributed 18 points, three rebounds and two assists. Since becoming the starter, Singler is now shooting exactly 50 percent from the 3-point arc and has made a triple in all but one game. He’s 21 of 42 in that time from the 3-point line.

RED FLAG – The Pistons aren’t getting much punch off of their bench. Rodney Stuckey, anchor of bench scoring all season has been held under double figures in four of his last six games. After he shot 2 of 9 in Saturday’s loss to Dallas, Stuckey came back with a 2 of 10 performance against Golden State. Besides Will Bynum, who finished with eight points and four assists, the two others who’ve been a part of John Loyer’s rotation, Jonas Jerebko and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, aren’t called upon as scorers. Jerebko finished with two points in 10 minutes Monday, while Caldwell-Pope was scoreless in a two-minute cameo in the first half.

The Pistons digested a tough loss Monday, dropping a game that was always within their grasp by eight points when they never trailed by more than five at any point in the second half until a little more than two minutes remained, and now things really get tough.

Four games out of the playoff field and a season-low 11 games under .500, the Pistons hit the road now for a daunting two-game trip to San Antonio and Houston, a collective 44 games over .500. The good news is that the Pistons have been about as successful on the road this season – 10-15 there, 13-19 at The Palace – but playing 16 of your final 25 games away from home when you need to make up as much ground as the Pistons must cover is a long way from favorable.

“Our next couple of road games are going to be tough,” Kyle Singler said after the 104-96 loss to Golden State in which the Pistons scored just six points in the final seven minutes. “San Antonio and Houston, those are two very good teams. We’re going to have to play well and continue our success like we had on the road early in the season. It’s going to be tough, but we can do it, for sure.”

Monday was a weird game, played at a 1970s era pace for the first half when Golden State became the third straight opponent over the past four nights at The Palace to break 60 points by halftime. Yet the Warriors led by just a point, 63-62.

“The game was kind of at their pace,” John Loyer said. “Like I told our guys, we took it to the finish line; we just didn’t cross it. You get to the last two, three minutes, that’s what you’re trying to get to and we’ve got to get to the point where we can finish. We didn’t score down the stretch.”

For all the ease the Pistons scored with in the first half, when they shot 50 percent and scored a dozen points in transition yet turned it over only five times, things were just as tough in the second half when they shot 30 percent and went 0 of 6 from the 3-point line. The move of Singler into the starting lineup – and he’s shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line in those nine games – has come at the cost of leaving the bench without one of its two rocks.

And when the other, Rodney Stuckey, struggles as he has over the past two games – he followed up a 2 of 9 in Saturday’s loss to Dallas with a 2 of 10, good for five points, against the Warriors – the Pistons wind up in the type of droughts that plagued them in Monday’s loss. Their last basket came on a Greg Monroe (23 points, eight rebounds) layup with 4:11 to play that pulled them within one point. They went scoreless on their next six possessions and trailed by eight when Singler hit two free throws with 51 seconds left to conclude their scoring.

“I liked his looks,” Loyer said of Stuckey’s 10 shots. “I felt bad for Stuck because his first three were right there, in and out, shots he works on every day. And it’s take the shots he took tonight right back. Some nights, it rolls around and goes out. As long as we’re getting the shots we want, I think it’s pretty good.”

"You get to the last two or three minutes, that’s what you are trying to get to in the NBA game. We have to get to the point where we can finish them."

- John Loyer on the game
Full game quotes
Loyer was genuinely encouraged with the performance overall, the stagnant offensive finish aside.

“I thought our effort, from the very opening tip, was tremendous,” he said. “I thought we sustained it. They’re such a powerful team. They can score so easily and so quickly, even when you play good defense. But, boy, for our group to keep coming back, keep fighting, go back up one, it’s very encouraging to me. We’ve just got to find a way to finish the game.”

To be sure, the Pistons generally did a good job of limiting Golden State’s trademark explosive bursts. The eight-point final margin represented Golden State’s biggest lead of the game. All-Star Steph Curry took 15 shots and made only six, including 3 of 9 from the 3-point arc. Andre Igoudala lost the matchup with fellow 2013 marquee free agent Josh Smith, Smith finishing three assists shy of a triple-double (18 points, 11 boards) while Iguodala shot 2 of 10 and finished with four points and two rebounds. Klay Thompson, like Curry, finished with 19 points but was limited to three 3-point attempts.

But a Golden State bench fortified with in-season pickups Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake gave the Warriors an edge, especially with Stuckey misfiring. Crawford hit 4 of 8 triples and finished with 15 points. Harrison Barnes added 11 and Blake six. Eight of Golden State’s 13 triples came off of its bench. The Pistons’ bench shot 7 of 23 overall, 0 of 2 from the arc, and got outscored 42-15.

Part of it was opportunity. Loyer, who used Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for two first-half minutes and Jonas Jerebko for 10 in addition to bench staples Stuckey (26 minutes) and Will Bynum (16), had to ride his starters hard. Singler logged more than 44 minutes, Monroe 40, Smith 39 and Brandon Jennings 37. Only Curry (36 minutes) topped 30 for the Warriors.

“Our bench was the key,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “They got us back in the ballgame.”

And their defense took it from there. Though still perceived as a run ’n’ bunch, Jackson has turned the Warriors into a top-10 defensive team: third in defensive efficiency, fourth in field-goal percentage defense and ninth in points allowed.

“They turned their D up a little bit,” Loyer said of the fourth-quarter, in which the Pistons shot 5 of 24 and scored 13 points. “We probably got stagnant in a few of the possessions. You look at their numbers, especially over the last four or five games and, really, all season .. that team can guard.”