Another 2-1 road trip. As ugly as losing at Utah and at Cleveland were, we've beaten the Lakers, the Blazers, the Mavericks, and the Pistons in January. Not bad.
How far the great have fallen.
All game long, I only had one thought. And it had nothing to do with the Hornets. Specifically, what the hell has Detroit done to itself? What if they don't get a good FA in the summer? They've pretty much torpedoed a very, very good team for nothing if that happens. Obviously, they were never as good as Boston or Cleveland. But still... watching this new incarnation of the Pistons makes me sad. This is definitely the end of an era- an era in which two very good defensive teams in SA and DET had some great battles. It makes you wonder what the next era will look like. Boston's Big 3 is on the way down. It's questionable how much they'll factor in the next decade. Kobe Bryant probably has 3 or 4 high level seasons left in him, but he's already past his prime. Who are the next elite teams? Cleveland certainly looks like a lock to be one of them. That leaves possibly Utah, Portland, Orlando, and New Orleans to step up. Cleveland's the new Detroit, but who's the new San Antonio? I guess time will tell. Uh, some actual thoughts on the game after the jump.
Let's start with the turnovers. One word: impressive. Chris Paul had 5 turnovers, the rest of the team had exactly one. That's totally crazy. On the flip side, Detroit finished with an equally impressive turnover total. Their ball control had a lot to do with Chris Paul failing to get a steal for the second straight game. The last time that happened was April 3rd-4th, 2007, when the Hornets posted back to back blowouts of the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Sonics.
The other impressive thing is the free throws. The first 10-20 games, I was really writing off our improved foul drawing as a fluke. Now, the evidence just keeps getting stronger and stronger. This team has legitimately improved over last year in terms of getting to the line. Tyson going 5-5 really helps. Between his 5-5 tonight and 6-6 earlier in the year, he's had some great foul shooting nights.
I saw that Niall noted on the 247 about the OREB difference, and whether we can pin that on laziness or poor coaching. Personally, I didn't feel like we got outworked that bad tonight. Detroit got a TON of "own-rebounds"- instances where a Piston would miss a 0 footer, get the ball right back, miss a 0 footer, and on and on. There's not much you can do about that. We were really aggressive in terms of blocking shots tonight, another thing that detracted from defensive rebounding. In general, I agree that the effort is lacking on the glass. Tonight, though, the numbers don't tell the whole story.
- Tyson Chandler had 4 offensive rebounds. Over the past 5 games, he's quietly had 4, 8, 5, 4, and 4 OREB's. Don't look now, but he's rounding into shape.
- I was watching college highlights earlier in the day and saw that Michigan State retired Mo-Pete's jersey. The Pistons' station also showed the highlights- it definitely looked like an awesome moment. There were some cool clips of Mo tearing it up alongside Mateen Cleaves and Company. The 2000 State team won the NCAA title, with Peterson leading the squad in scoring, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. MSU's legendary coach Tom Izzo was in tears on the sideline during the ceremony. Overall, it put into perspective not only how far Mo has come- rising from perhaps the most dangerous city in America (Flint, MI)- but also how great he is at basketball. Of course, fast forward to the game and to a third straight DNP-CD. The last 10 games or so, I was in a state where I didn't really care that Mo wasn't playing. It didn't sit well with me, but I was beyond caring. Now, I just feel sick. We're letting a great basketball player literally rot away on the bench. And not a single member of the organization seems to mind.
- Rodney Stuckey is legitimately good. His 6-15 is certainly no indication of how good at basketball he is. He makes great decisions with the basketball. Above all, he rarely forces up shots and knows when to pass it off. I'm sure Detroit will try to make the most of their impending opportunity to build around him, either this summer or next.
- How about that 9-0 run by the bench to start the fourth? Much of it was fueled by great defensive play- Hilton had a real nice rejection on a layup, and Daniels and Posey were wreaking havoc in the passing lanes. If the bench hadn't held down those first 5 minutes as well as they did, this game certainly would've been in question. The starters were coming off heavy minutes in Cleveland last night, and they needed every minute of rest in that fourth.
- Antonio Daniels was flat out awesome tonight. He had as many assists off the bench as their starting point guard did (6). Except Rodney Stuckey played 40 minutes, and Daniels played 10. I'm hoping Daniels can start playing some more minutes in the near future. Since that awful game in Utah, he's had 14 assists and 1 turnover in his last five. Chris Paul nearly hit 40 minutes for the fourth straight game tonight! That's way, way too many minutes for him. As Daniels continues to emerge, I hope Byron Scott goes to him more often.
One last observation before I leave you, regarding mismatches. The last handful of games, we've been getting a metric ton of mismatches every game by running the pick and roll. Almost all of our opponents insist on switching the pick and roll and leaving a big on Paul and a small on West/Chandler. Yet we haven't really taken advantage of it too much. Why? Mismatches aren't inherently a positive. Mismatches are good when you take advantage of them. When Chris Paul is being guarded by Rasheed Wallace, he needs to drive the ball! Taking a fadeaway 20 footer accomplishes nothing. The shot isn't more likely to go in, just because he's being guarded by the "wrong" guy. A fadeaway 20 footer is a fadeaway 20 footer whether you're shooting over Stuckey or Wallace. Ditto for West. When he's guarded by Richard Hamilton, he needs to back him down or drop step into the paint. Falling away from 15, again, accomplishes nothing. We've been drawing mismatches left and right, but we utterly fail to exploit them. It's as if CP gets the switch on the S/R and then thinks to himself, "Oh cool, Sheed's got me. If I shoot an off balance shot jumper off my left foot while surfing the internet on my Black Berry, it's sure to go in. Cuz Sheed's got me. Duh." Blurgh.
Anyway, Hornets back at it on MLK Day vs. the Indy Grangers.