Turnovers in first, third quarters undermine high-octane Pistons attack
LOS ANGELES – The Pistons played 40 minutes of sublime offensive basketball. Eight of their worst minutes of the season rendered it moot.
After hanging 55 first-half points on the scoreboard despite a first-quarter turnover spurt that dug them a 10-point hole, the Pistons went stone-cold silent for eight interminable minutes of the third quarter. As easily as quality shots came to them in the first half, suddenly nothing went right.
They missed their first 12 shots. Over 14 possessions, they shot 1 of 15. And then the turnovers struck again. Six miscues in the first quarter and six more in the third, five of them in that eight-minute stretch when the Pistons were outscored 18-3, produced 22 Clippers points – way too much largesse for a team with the firepower that All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul supply.
“They feed off turnovers,” Will Bynum said of the Clippers, who turned 17 for the game – just five combined in the second and fourth quarters – into 30 points. “Turnovers and bad shots. Good teams like that get out in transition and they make momentum plays and that’s kind of what happened tonight.”
“When we took care of the ball, I thought our movement was pretty good,” John Loyer said after the 112-103 loss, Detroit’s 13th straight road defeat. “Like I told our guys, you can’t have a three-minute spurt here or a three-minute spurt there where you turn it over. Seventeen turns isn’t earth-shattering, but what they do, they convert it into 30 points. It’s very, very hard to overcome.”
The Pistons, after scoring those three points in the first eight minutes after halftime, immediately returned to nearly flawless offensive basketball. They scored 45 points over the final 16 minutes of the game.
“We didn’t move the ball,” Loyer said of the sluggish third-quarter start. “We had very good ball movement in the first half. To me, we played no-agenda basketball. Some guys came off the bench and really contributed. And then to start the third quarter, we were just kind of like stuck in mud. The ball didn’t go side to side. Four out of five guys didn’t touch it. And when you shoot quick shots against a quality team like this, they have good speed, they have an All-Star point guard, they’re going to get out and run the floor.”
That All-Star point guard, Paul, was MVP caliber with a Pistons point guard legend, Isiah Thomas, in the audience, as well as Pistons owner Tom Gores. Paul put up 28 points and 15 assists, requiring just 15 shots, and committed only two turnovers. Griffin had nearly as big an impact on the game, hitting 12 of 17 shots to finish with 25 points, seven boards and seven assists.
The Pistons fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter, but came back to lead by four in the second thanks largely to Jonas Jerebko. He matched his previous season-high with 12 points in the first half alone, when he hit his first three 3-point shots, and wound up matching his career high of 22 points. Jerebko hit 5 of 7 3-point shots, but he did more than score in a performance that reminded everyone why the Pistons were so enthused about their 2009 second-round pick as a rookie before he blew out his Achilles tendon in the preseason of his season year.
“It (stinks) to lose a game, so you can’t be too happy about it,” said Jerebko, who grabbed nine rebounds and added two assists and two steals. “But at least I saw the ball go through the rim a couple of times and it made the game come a lot easier for me.”
“Jonas was very good,” Loyer said. “And when Jonas does what Jonas can really do, he’s a very, very good player. He shot the ball extremely well.”
He wasn’t alone, especially in the first half. Jerebko, Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe combined for 40 first-half points – a dozen each for Jerebko and Drummond, eight apiece for Smith and Monroe – and they made 18 of 26 shots. Drummond finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes in his second game back after missing one full game and all but five minutes of another with a neck injury.
“Andre was very, very solid,” Loyer said. “He screened very, very well. I thought he finished at the rim very well … had a nice jump hook in the lane. Andre, for a young player, you pretty much know what you’re going to get every night from him and we got it again tonight.”
To be sure, they got a lot out of the night. Even with the 1 of 15 hole in the middle of the game, they still shot 45 percent. They outrebounded the Clippers 46-40. They piled up 29 assists, hit a dozen triples and shot 41 percent from the arc and got 38 points off of their bench. But the one thing they didn’t get was a win.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball better and play 48 minutes,” Jerebko said. “We played a decent basketball game, but not for 48 minutes. And they’re a very good team, so you’ve got to play good the whole game.”