Life is more difficult for Pistons big man Greg Monroe, left, because the lanes are so clogged and he's rarely on the floor when it's spread. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
While this time wouldn’t seem like a crisis in the traditional form for the Detroit Pistons, given their recent history, frustration is the prevailing emotion following their sixth straight loss.
Whether it’s their inability to take a punch or a fundamental flaw with their psyche, the second halves have been disastrous, and it’s a big enough sample size for everyone to be concerned.
During this current six-game losing streak, they’ve been outscored in the second half of every game by an average of 54 to 38. Mind you, one was the second half in Washington, D.C., where the game was out of hand by halftime, and the number would be far worse if not for their comeback in Madison Square Garden in which the Knicks outscored the Pistons by three.
The scene looks eerily familiar. The second half begins, and the opposing team jumps out to a quick run, leading to looks of bewilderment on the Pistons. They struggle to score out of the gate, often because there seems to be confusion about what actually works for them.
“They do try to mix it up, get ball movement, but I think we do have bread and butter plays,” Pistons forward Greg Monroe said after a 112-91 loss to the Raptors.
While Monroe misses more than his share of inside buckets, life is more difficult for him because the lanes are so clogged and he’s rarely on the floor when it’s spread.
After a decent-shooting first half, he took just one shot after halftime, along with rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who probably doesn’t get enough plays called for him in second halves.
He made six of his seven shots in the first half, scoring 13, but like Monroe, took just one the rest of the way. Teams haven’t adjusted to Caldwell-Pope because he isn’t regarded yet as a scorer, but the Pistons go away from him for whatever reason.
“I don’t think Toronto did anything that differently,” Monroe said. “The calls that were made, as far as offense (changed).”
“You know what they’re gonna do when they go inside,” an opposing player said recently, a member of a team that has beat the Pistons during this six-game streak. “They can’t shoot so as long as you can somewhat defend your man; we can take our chances with that. They’re talented, though, I think they’ll be fine.”
Even Maurice Cheeks, never one to panic, can’t deny how crucial this time period is. Of the shooting, he feels it’s something the team can get better at with practice, but there’s not one consistent shooter on the roster.
“It’s testing our will,” Cheeks said. “We have to keep fighting, and it’ll turn for us.”
What can this team hang its hat on? Is it isolation plays for Brandon Jennings, who is finding it increasingly difficult to get to the basket without having to use the entire floor to get there? Is it Josh Smith on the block, when the Pistons and Smith are committed to putting him there?
Or is it Monroe, who can have close misses, but misses nonetheless? Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond are products of supreme ball movement and getting out on the fast break, so it’s not a shock to see either of them disappear after halftime when the ball stops moving.
Having fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff race for the first time this season, they’d better begin finding some answers soon. “The confidence is still there,” Monroe said. “Of course, guys are upset, they’re mad because we should be winning more games. We have to work together to get more wins.”