Memphis dominates second half to send Pistons reeling to 4th straight loss
The Pistons scored 56 points in Sunday’s first half, 28 in the second. It might be grossly simplistic to say twice the points means they were twice as good before halftime as after, but it’s close enough to the truth.
And since it continued a recent trend of losing traction after halftime at home – where the Pistons have now lost five straight games and are 6-12 this season – and since it also came on the heels of a five-day break where the focus was on eradicating late-game execution breakdowns, well, that explains why Mo Cheeks was about 15 minutes late to his own postgame press conference.
“When you lose a game like that, you have a little conversation,” Cheeks said after the Pistons were outscored 61-28 in the second half of a 112-84 loss. “It took a little longer than I expected. I was just trying to get a little insight for myself because I didn’t have it. Normally, I do. This time, I didn’t have it.”
Five days between games is so far outside the norm for an NBA team that it wouldn’t have been a stunner if the Pistons had been outscored 61-28 in the first half. But they seemed to survive the break from routine OK, shooting 49 percent and getting the type of ball movement that produced 15 assists on 23 first-half baskets.
Their frontcourt of Josh Smith (10 points, five boards), Greg Monroe (15 and seven) and Andre Drummond (11 and 11) combined for 36 points and 23 rebounds and the Pistons had a 30-16 edge in points in the paint. To be sure, the only thing that really kept a Memphis team that shot 38 percent in the first half in the game was backup big man Jon Leuer, who scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in less than 17 first-half minutes.
So thoroughly did Memphis flex its muscles in the second half, Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger didn’t go until Leuer until late in the fourth quarter when they led by 25. Leuer kept piling it on, though, finishing with a game-high 23 while Ed Davis added 17 and 11 off the bench in just 17 minutes.
“I think we caught them on a night where it is hard in professional basketball to have a long layoff after playing 15 in 23,” Joerger said.
The Pistons grew visibly frustrated in the second half and it came at the cost of their focus and ultimately their effort. Memphis repeatedly gained extra possessions by outhustling the Pistons to loose balls, particularly on its offensive glass, where the Grizzlies reeled in 19 rebounds and finished with an overall 59-43 edge, including 31-16 in the second half.
"It hurt; it definitely hurt, playing in that second half."
- Andre Drummond on the second half
Full game quotes
“They basically won on the boards and that’s something we have to control,” Monroe said. “Rebounding should be something we control on most nights and we have to do a better job of that.”
Monroe, asked if the postgame players-coaches interplay was productive, answered with a quick and emphatic, “yes.”
“We talked. We want to keep it in house, some of the things we discussed, but there was definitely a dialogue with players and coaches. Both sides spoke. The way we’re going right now, sometimes you have to talk about stuff. Sometimes you’ve got to sit down and talk about it as a group.”
Drummond’s shot at a 20-20 game was gone in the first four minutes of the second half, when he picked up three quick fouls, putting the exclamation point on the interlude when he was hit with a technical as he walked to the bench. Brandon Jennings, who picked up seven assists on the first 10 Pistons baskets and had nine at halftime, finished with 11 assists but shot only 2 of 14 – backup point guard Will Bynum was 3 of 11 – and slammed a chair in frustration as the second-half snowball kept rolling downhill on the Pistons.
“I feel like when teams start punching on us in the second half, we shy away from that as a collective unit,” he said. “That’s been our problem so far. Teams are down against us in the first half and they just come out and put it on us every game. We’ve got to have that same mentality, especially at home. Second halves are where games are won. That’s when guys start getting physical and the game gets serious.”
The Pistons, now 14-20, hit the road for a three-game trip to New York, Toronto and Philadelphia. A few weeks ago, that probably looked like a chance to get fat against the sputtering Atlantic Division, against whose teams the Pistons are 6-0 this season. But Toronto has won five straight, Philadelphia has won its last four and New York won last week at San Antonio.
Maybe it’s just what the Pistons need to rivet their focus.
“It’s most definitely an emergency because right now it’s really slipping away from us,” Jennings said. “If we don’t become a better second-half team, then we’re going to lose a lot of games.”