Tough Way to Start
OKC star scores 37 in debut as Delfino's late triples sink Pistons
As good as James Harden was in his Houston debut - and, my, was he good
- the Pistons had absorbed the bulk of his carnage and still had an
11-point lead to show for it early in the season opener's fourth
But the Rockets kept finding other ways to counter Detroit's defense -
first slipping into their paint, then beating them back in transition,
and finally launching a bombs-away assault from the 3-point line in a
breathtakingly efficient offensive performance. And when the Rockets
overcame the Pistons by outscoring them 33-15 in the fourth quarter for
a 105-96 win, it was ex-Piston Carlos Delfino's four triples that carved
the heart out of them.
"What did Carlos have? Three or four threes in the fourth?" Lawrence
Frank asked when it was over. "There's always mistakes that are made,
but they made us pay for mistakes by making shots. Harden, you can live
with him going big because at one point Harden was going big and prior
to (Jeremy) Lin hitting those two threes (early in the second half),
they were 3 of 10 for threes. With that being said, the damage in the
fourth quarter wasn't really precipitated by Harden as it was by
Harden still made an enormous late impact for Houston, dishing out five
of his 12 assists in the fourth quarter. He finished with 37 points -
three off his career best - to go with four steals and six rebounds, as
"We would have thought he would have had a tougher time trying to figure
out their offense, but they stuck to a couple of plays the entire game,"
Tayshaun Prince said. "Their whole thing was trying to keep us spread
out as much as possible. When we missed shots, they pushed the ball up
and got easy opportunities. We know what type of player James Harden is.
The more he has the ball in his hands, the (more) dangerous he is. It's
going to make it even tougher being in Houston; he has the ball in his
hands even more."
The Pistons had their own dazzling stretches, scoring 36 points in the
second quarter when a bench unit that included standout performances
from rookies Kim English and Kyle Singler made an impact, and holding
Houston to 17 points and 30 percent shooting in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter unraveled at both ends, offensive stagnation leading
to Houston scoring chances that allowed the Rockets to set their defense
and make the Pistons attack in the half-court, where poor shooting from
their backcourt - Rodney Stuckey (1 of 10) and Brandon Knight combined
to go 6 of 25 - made it difficult to spread out Houston's defense.
"I just think we lost our pace," Frank said. "Getting into things later
than we wanted, the ball sticking - we didn't change what we ran, but
just our intent with it. Overdribbling, passing and standing, not
probing and getting into that paint, playing around the paint. They were
in our paint and we became very spread out."
The Pistons shot 35 percent in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded
13-3. The Rockets went small for much of the fourth, using Chandler
Parsons at power forward and playing Harden, Lin and Delfino around the
3-point line. Frank eventually matched up with the smaller lineup,
playing English along with Knight and Stuckey with Prince at power
Frank used all five bench players - Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum, Andre
Drummond, English and Singler - for at least 13 minutes apiece. Singler
scored 10 points with two rebounds, making consecutive 3-point baskets
in the 36-point second quarter, while English hit a pair of threes in
the second half and finished with eight points and three assists.
Until Delfino's late barrage, the Detroit bench held a 34-9 scoring
advantage over Houston's. It ended 36-27. On nights the Pistons don't
get bludgeoned by a 37-point star turn or sliced up by a 3-point
explosion off the bench, they showed enough in the opener to send them
on their six-game trip west encouraged. But the loss hung heavy in their
postgame locker room and won't easily be dismissed.
"They started off the fourth real well," Prince said. "Delfino hit some
big shots and from that point on we just couldn't regain control. A
couple of bad turnovers here and there and the offense just kind of went
south. It's something I talked about before: a young team, you have to
play consistent basketball and if you don't, then this can happen. We've
got a lot of work to do. We wish we could have gotten this game before
we went on this road trip. It's just going to make it tougher for us."