The Detroit Pistons played well last night, for the most part, yet they still lost 105-100 to the Portland Trailblazers. A team with one of the finest big men in the league, Lamarcus Aldridge. To me he is one of the biggest All-Star snubs of recent NBA history! This man can flat-out play. He has postmoves, a great jumper and is not a liability on defense.
After a slow start to the game he really got going. He finished with 36 points on 12-of-17-shooting. He is not just another big men dominating Detroits big men, I have rarely seen a finesse player scoring on Ben Wallace this easily. He made it look easy and I don't there are a lot of better Power Forwards in the league right now.
The first play occurred with nine minutes to play in the third quarter. Detroit has had problems all year defending the pick and roll. It does not get much easier when the other team has players like Lamarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller. Miller is a master at the P&R and and LA is the prototype big man with a great 20-foot-range and the athletic ability to drive it to the hole.
The Blazers used a reverse swing play against a set Detroit zone defense. Miller swings it to the right wing, gets the ball back and swings it to the left wing. This is used to get the zone moving. The more a zone, the more holes are created to attack. Wanna beat a zone? Swing the ball!
Now it gets brilliant. Portland uses two high-post players! LA sets a screen and Dante Cunningham stands at the free-throw line. The defense needs to respect his jumpshot so Ben Wallace cannot sack all the way down into the zone. Cunningham receives a pin-point pass.
Simultaneously to the pass LA rolls to the basket. When Cunningham catches the ball he splits Wallace and Prince with a pin-point pass down-low. Greg Monroe needs to recognize this earlier so he can get in better help position. He is one of the smarter rookies when it comes to this and this is game speed and beautiful execution! But Monroe is still a rookie so he will have missed rotations. At least he goes in hard and saves the dunk!
As you can see, swinging the ball created the glaring hole in the middle and Detroit does a really bad job of moving the zone as a unit. Usually Stuckey would have to guard Cunningham in the high-post since he is not really guarding anyone!
The second play was partially already covered by Patrick Hayes! Allow me to break it down even more detailedly!
The play occured with :36 to play in the game with Detroit being down by one. Miller handles the ball on the left wing and Aldridge come up to set a screen to the middle of the court. This helps Portland, because instead of having two predictable options (pass or drive) this creates several options (pass to LA, Batum, Matthews or drive).
In order to deny the drive, Chris Wilcox shows really hard on the screen, way too hard in my opinion.
Then again, I'd rather have a play show too hard on a P&R then not at all like it happened so many times during the first two months of the season. Stuckey does not have the height to bother a wide open LA jumper and Daye is too far away. This is not Daye's fault, it's just a fact.
Miller realizes Wilcox is showing too hard and finds Lamarcus Aldridge who nails the jumper.
Quite honestly, it is puzzling to me Coach Kuester didn't sub in Tayshaun Prince at some point. Prince is the only player on the roster who has the speed and length to bother Aldridge's shot and still stay in front of him. You don't have to worry about Miller's shot all that much since he is not known for a great midrange game. Instead of subbing in Stuckey Kuester should have gone with Tay and we would have had a combination of length and athleticism, a combination much harder to beat off pick and roll plays which involves a finesse Power Forward.
Detroit is in a lot of games, but we come up short a lot of times. We just don't have the talent. Bynum can be great and at the same time overly aggressive. He had great plays last night and then screwed it all up with three unnecessary drives late in the game which led to transition buckets for Portland. I don't know if our Pistons were tired, but they looked slow getting back on D.
Ben Gordon did a terrific job keeping the balance of driving and shooting. He was very aggressive penetrating when given the chance and knocking down jumpers when defenders left him a little space. The Pistons could have and probably should have won this game. Maybe the players will get older (that's for sure) and wiser (fingy's crossed) and make better decisions down the stretch on a more frequent basis!
Thanks for reading!