Thursday, December 6, 2012

Halfway Home

We sit at 18-19 with four games to go until the halfway point in the season. OKC, New Orleans, Memphis and Toronto comprise those games and to be honest I would be shocked if we took 3 of them to finish above .500 in the first 41 games but we have to play the games to find out.

Game #38 Detroit 93, OKLAHOMA CITY 111

The first matchup of our teams since our recent trade but the end result was no different than the first time we played. Durant again scored 40+ on us but at least Tayshaun Prince only scored 8. It all came down to shooting again as we shot 45% on the night with 31% from deep and 57% from the line. We are currently 23rd in the league in free throw shooting at 72% as a team and that's not good enough

Monroe led the way with 18 and 6 while we got another strong performance from Drummond off the bench with 12 points and 3 blocks. He looks so much better in that role than his past ten or so starts. Sefolosha scored 13 for us in his return to OKC but wasn't up to the task defensively against the game's best scorer. Jerebko left the game with an injury but its just a minor one and he should be good to go tomorrow night against New Orleans.

Game #39 DETROIT 115, New Orleans 92

The Hornets came to town and I was eager to get a look at Anthony Davis. Davis played well with a double double but only one block in the game. However we opened up a 16 point lead after one so the focus for the Hornets became quick jumpers mostly to get back into the game.

It is a good thing we didn't need to rely on jumpers though because we shot a putrid 1 of 11 (yes 9%) for three on the night and our free throw woes continued as we made 18 of 27 only on the night thanks largely to Greg Monroe who missed 6 of 16. However Monroe did score 36 in total so we'll take it. The formula has been the same all year - Monroe beasts and we win. Monroe gets held in check and we lose. Stuckey with 23 off the bench and Drummond with 10 and 9. I mentioned moving Lamar Odom into the starting lineup to see if giving him more minutes would help but he's been invisible in these past two games and all we're doing is splitting up minutes between him, Collison and Jerebko and nobody is playing well. Something probably has to give soon there.

Game #40 Detroit 95, MEMPHIS 76

Finally a road win after losing 8 of our last 9 on the road. Really though we played one good quarter winning the third 33-17 and the rest of the game was just flat out ugly by both sides. The two teams combined shot 58% from the free throw line and it was just a slow, ugly game. Monroe led the way with 22 and 10 and 3 blocks while Stuckey and Knight posted passable lines. Everyone else seemed to chip in 6 or 8 points and it was a nice team effort.

Defensively Sefolosha did a nice job on Rudy Gay holding him to 6 of 21 from the floor and Odom did a good job keeping Randolph out of the game. In very unlike Z-Bo fashion he only hoisted 8 shots on the night. Conley, Allen and Gasol scored theirs but the Grizzlies bench was a total non factor which speaks both to their lack of depth and the nice job our bench can do.

Game #41 DETROIT 105, Toronto 86

20-20 coming into this one against a team who is not very good at 12-31. The Raps scored the opening bucket of the game and never led again. As usual Greg Monroe was the player of the game dropping 22 and 8 while our guards really stepped up. Stuckey had 21 off the bench and starters Knight and English combined for 29.

The defense was the real key though as we held Toronto to 1 of 20 from three point land (and I thought it was bad when we put up 1 of 11). Lowry and Kleiza were to blame for 13 of the misses. The increase in defense is thanks largely in part to Sefolosha. He may not have been able to slow down Durant but he's given a lot of other guys fits and is contributing in the box score too. Thabo had 9 points and 9 boards to go with 2 steals in this one and Odom rounded out the starters with only 4 points and 6 rebounds.

The Halfway Point

41 games in and we're 21-20 which is good enough to be tied atop the Central with Milwaukee and 6th in the conference overall. 6th I can handle because it means steering clear of Miami until the ECF and we're 6.5 back of 5th in the conference (Boston at 28-16) so I don't think we're in danger of moving up - its just moving down we have to worry about.

Coming in the next post we'll do some midseason grades and get ready for the second half of the year and hopefully a playoff berth!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Go West Young Men

With a tough west coast road trip underway what better time to shake up the roster? I don't expect much out of these next three games since we've got new pieces in place but here's hoping for the best.

Game #33 Detroit 90, PORTLAND 105

As expected it was a rough first outing with this new group. LaMarcus Aldridge and some home cooking landed Greg Monroe on the bench for all but 18 minutes with foul trouble and getting Monroe out of the game is the most effective way of slowing us offensively. Aldridge finished with 27, 10 boards and 3 blocks. Jerebko and Stuckey combined for 32 off the bench for us.

So how about our new players? Sefolosha did an admirable job in the start at small forward. Nic Batum is not an easy matchup given his length and offensive ability and Thabo held him to 6 points on 1 of 7 shooting. That is very encouraging and hopefully this will signal the end of opposing small forwards abusing us on a nightly basis like they would do to Tayshaun. Collison had 7 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench and Maynor was quiet with 4 points in 11 minutes. Drummond was a major disappointment - 5 points, 5 rebounds in 28 minutes and allowing JJ Hickson to score a good chunk of his 20 points on him. I'm a big proponent of playing the rookies to allow them to develop but maybe Andre just needs to come off the bench for a bit. We won't make any changes on this trip but it's time to start thinking about that.

In non game related news Corey Maggette got off a rant after the game about not playing. He's being paid nearly 11 million dollars to sit in warm ups. Then again if he was of any use to us he would be playing. He's simply an expiring contract to me. I had the opportunity to respond in the media but I chose to no comment it. One its not worth potentially causing the 12th man to engage in further morale lowering tirades but more importantly I want to keep him at least in a decent mood in case we can and want to trade him. Maybe he can help a contender or better yet maybe some rebuilder would like to clear some space and would take him. I've worked hard to clear our books for next year but that's only half the battle -we still have to convince players to take the money and sometimes in a place like this its easier to just trade for guys already signed.

Game #34 Detroit 84, DENVER 111

Denver and us are inextricably linked through recent history. It was the prior regime that drafted one Darko Milicic allowing Denver to draft Carmelo Anthony with the following pick and that same regime then later gave them Chauncey Billups and Aaron Afflalo while taking Allen Iverson, who by that point was no longer the answer to anything, off their hands. Needless to say I think they owe us a few.

Unfortunately the Nuggets didn't share the same sentiment. The Nuggets dominated us on the boards with a 51-38 advantage leading to a 25-5 edge in second chance points and a 56-26 drumming in points in the paint. Stuckey was great again off the bench for 21 and that role has really suited him well. The worst news was that Ty Lawson didn't even play as he's still recovering from a broken foot. Andre Drummond got abused by Javale McGee 22 points and 12 boards, Gallinari torched Sefolosha and Jerebko for 22 and Faried held Monroe to 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting. I really like this Denver team. Any time you can 58% from the free throw line and have more turnovers than your opponent and still win by 27 points you must be a pretty decent squad.

Game #35 Detroit 110, UTAH 95

Given our recent rebounding struggles I came into this game expecting a massacre on the boards. But with Favors still recovering from his broken toe and the chance Millsap would not pass his concussion tests in time to play maybe we would have a chance to steal one game on this west coast swing. We're now 16-18 and falling out of playoff contention in the East. Then again it's the East - everyone's in playoff contention most of the year.

Well it turns out Millsap did play but only played about 24 minutes with a very quiet 5 points. Monroe finally got back on track with a huge night of 27 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Knight, English and Stuckey combined for 45 points and Nick Collison gave us 10 off the bench. One guy I haven't mentioned is Lamar Odom. He shot a combined 6 for 20 on this four game roadie with only 14 rebounds in four games. The game he has been able to log 30-35 minutes he has been very productive but apparently 20 minutes or so isn't enough to get him moving. And Andre Drummond just continues to be lousy. He blocked one shot on this trip - he's got potential through the roof but maybe its time to cut back the minutes a little for now and see what he can do coming off the bench. As tough as it is to believe at 17-18 we hold the final spot in the East so we might as well see if making a lineup move helps get a few extra wins. I'm sure the fans would like to see some playoff basketball here again.

Game #36 DETROIT 108, Charlotte 94

Charlotte comes in to The Palace with seven wins on the year - two of them courtesy of us but we've got a new lineup once again and are ready to kick some Bobcat tail. We decided the best course of action was try to get Lamar engaged again and move him into the starting lineup sliding Moose over to the 5 and Drummond to our first big off the bench.

Now I'm not going to declare the new lineup a success simply because we beat the lowly Bobcats but there were some positive initial impressions. Odom played through a sore wrist and scored 12 points to go with 4 rebounds in 29 minutes while Drummond had 10 points and blocked 2 shots off the bench in 21 minutes. Monroe had a feast on the Bobcats interior D scoring 34 points to go with 10 boards, 2 blocks and 4 steals. That's player of the week material there. The most impressive stat though was the 21 point lead we let Charlotte accumulate before wiping out that deficit and then some with a 70-43 second half. No time to celebrate though - time to hop a plane to Indy for another game tomorrow.

Game #37 Detroit 88, INDIANA 113

Last time we met we dropped a close one to the Pacers because Danny Granger dropped 37 on us - hopefully with Thabo Sefolosha in tow that would not be the case on this trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Well this time was completely different - we decided to lose by 25 instead of 5. On the bright side Danny Granger only scored 29 this time so that was an improvement I suppose but watching David West put up 24 on Lamar Odom all night wasn't fun.

Greg Monroe had 30 for us and Jerebko got 19 off the bench but that was it scoring wise. Not another player hit double figures for us. We shot an abysmal 4 of 22 for three and an equally horrid 12 of 22 from the line. We're just not good enough to shoot that poorly and win games. Drummond was solid with 7 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. Being there has let him come in when everyone's a little winded and be able to play against some reserves instead of always just opposing starters. He did take a nasty shot to the head late in the game and had to leave. Turns out he has a mild concussion and might miss our next game at OKC which undoubtedly is setting up to be another point barrage by some of the league's elite players.