One to Forget

Pistons fall down big early, never catch up to sizzling Warriors
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor


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

WHITE HOT – Golden State led 16-4 less than five minutes into Tuesday’s game and the Pistons never threatened that lead, losing 113-95 on the second night of their season’s first back-to-back set of games. The Warriors scored on 16 of 20 possessions in the first quarter to take a 19-point lead. Steph Curry scored 25 points on just 10 shots and David Lee added 17 and nine rebounds for the Warriors. Maurice Cheeks used 11 players in the first three quarters in an attempt to find some spark or combination that clicked. Gigi Datome was a bright spot, sinking his first four shots, including two triples, and finishing with 10 points.

BLUE COLLAR – Greg Monroe struggled out of the gate like most of his teammates after he played 37 minutes at Portland 24 hours earlier, missing all three of his shots in a scoreless first quarter. But with Josh Smith ineffective and Andre Drummond in foul trouble, Monroe kept battling. He scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds in the second quarter and finished with 15 points despite playing only 10 minutes of the second half. Drummond, after 16 points and 16 rebounds in 42 minutes at Portland, came back with 16 and 14 in 29 minutes against the Warriors. He went down holding his left ankle after drawing a charge midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Pistons a momentary scare. But he got up and was ready to stay in the game until Cheeks substituted him out for the night. Drummond made 8 of 10 shots and also blocked three shots.

RED FLAG – Golden State is in the top handful of offensive teams in the NBA, but for the second straight night the Pistons gave up points way too easily. The Warriors shot 61 percent in the first quarter and it wasn’t just hot shooting. They scored on eight dunks or layups among their 14 baskets as the Pistons either were confused or a half-step slow with their defensive rotations. They never really cooled down, shooting 63 percent through three quarters before a sloppy fourth quarter made them settle for 60 percent, including 8 of 16 from the 3-point line.

OAKLAND – It’s not like the Pistons were unaware of the possibilities. Brandon Jennings warned of Golden State’s 3-point efficiency 24 hours earlier after Portland bombed 11 triples to put down a Pistons rally.

They knew all about the raucous Golden State crowd. They were equally aware it was their first back-to-back outing of the season. They probably knew that in Golden State’s two other home games this season, they led at some point by at least 27 points. And of course they knew about the millstone of their 20-game road losing streak to Western Conference teams.

So they knew what might happen. But they probably never imagined it would get that bad, that fast. And when the 113-95 outcome was mercifully over, the Pistons pointed the finger right at the mirror.

“Definitely no effort,” Jennings said. “It seemed like we weren’t ready to play from the jump. And on the road you can’t be like that. You’ve got to have way more energy than the home team.”

“There are going to be nights like this in this league, but there were a lot of things we could have controlled tonight,” Greg Monroe said. “The effort just wasn’t there. I don’t know any way else to put that.”

The Warriors gutted the Pistons defensively by scoring with deadly efficiency in the opening minutes. It was 16-4 less than five minutes into the game as Golden State scored on its first six possessions and nine of the first 10.

Maurice Cheeks tried a little of everything. Not prone to quick timeouts, he called his first less than three minutes into the game with the Pistons trailing 11-2. He used rookies Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tony Mitchell in the first half and 11 players in the first three quarters. Josh Smith sat out to start the second half and Chauncey Billups didn’t play after coming out midway through the first quarter, though Cheeks said Billups has been nursing a sore knee.

"It’s very tough when they get on a roll like that. You just have to go out there and be ready to play."

- Andre Drummond on the game
Full game quotes

“I was a little disappointed in our effort,” Cheeks admitted. “You can’t get down 20, 25 points” – it was 19 after a quarter and ballooned to 29 late in the third quarter – “and be happy with the effort.” Of the use of multiple players and starting the second half with Smith and Billups on the bench, Cheeks denied he was sending messages. “I just wanted to change some things up. It wasn’t about their effort. I just wanted to try to get something a little different.”

Whether the Pistons start the same unit in Sacramento on Friday night … well, Cheeks will use the two off days to ponder many things.

“We got a couple of days to think about it,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do to change some things up. … You have to think about it. Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen, but you have to give it some thought. You wouldn’t be doing justice if you didn’t give it some thought.”

Cheeks isn’t likely to overreact, and it’s worth remembering that the Pistons – despite their four-game losing streak and 2-5 record – have been highly competitive in every game until Tuesday in the face of arguably the league’s toughest slate of opponents to date, including no less than four legitimate title contenders.

But the Pistons have sprung defensive leaks in the past week, though the teams putting up big numbers – Oklahoma City, Portland, Golden State – all present problematic firepower from both inside and out. Perhaps in deference to Golden State’s acknowledged 3-point arsenal – the Warriors came into the game shooting 48 percent at home from the arc – the Pistons wound up getting beat up inside. Of the Warriors’ 14 first-quarter baskets, eight were either dunks or layups.

“We were so worried about the three, they were able to get the ball in the paint and get a lot of uncontested layups and dunks,” Jennings said.

“We just have to watch some film, get back to being aggressive and physical in the paint and causing teams to shoot contested outside jump shots,” Smith said.

The Pistons, the NBA’s No. 1 team at scoring points in the paint at 52 a game, hit their number on the nose. But they were outscored in that category by two, a testament to how effectively Golden State used its outside threat to open cracks in Detroit’s interior defense.

“I think we’ve got to cover the paint,” Cheeks said. “We had been pretty good with covering the paint, but when they spread the floor the way they do, you concentrate on trying to get out and defending the three and, consequently, you’re going to get some inside points. Early on, it was not the way we like to play. But when they spread the floor the way they do, it can open up the middle of the court.”

The good news for the Pistons is they close their four-game West Coast trip with two opponents that aren’t of the same caliber they’ve been playing of late, including Friday’s match against 1-5 Sacramento. They’ll have two days to stew on their first lopsided loss of the season, too, and maybe they’ll have some answers to their defensive woes by then.

They already know the solution to one problem that dogged them at Golden State.

Monroe was asked what Cheeks said to the Pistons in the postgame locker room.

“He said a lot,” Monroe said. “But he was mostly talking about the effort. They are a good team, but the effort we came with tonight, we won’t beat anyone. We have to be better than that.”