To say that there were no moments of elation for Pistons fans tonight would be a lie — but they were hard to come by, and generally in brief spurts. Detroit managed to close the gap on virtually every lead that Dallas took tonight, but still found a way to frustrate and embarrass themselves in the process, culminating in Charlie Villanueva clanking a wide open corner three with time running out.
There were a few bright spots for the Pistons tonight, to be fair. Khris Middleton scored a career high 14 points — 10 of which came in the fourth quarter — and was instrumental in keeping the game close down the stretch. Despite missing a potentially game-tying three, Villanueva was equally huge in the fourth, scoring all 12 of his points in the final quarter to go along with three offensive rebounds. Brandon Knight was all over the place (we’ll get to that later), but still finished with a respectable 21 points on 17 shots and only one turnover. Greg Monroe was Greg Monroe, scoring 14 points, grabbing 10 boards, and dishing out four assists in an off night (for him).
But, man, was there a lot of head-scratchingly, teeth-grindingly, face-palmingly awful play in Detroit tonight. Jason Maxiell continues to be a constant irritation, even on his “good” nights. Max put up 12 points to go with 13 rebounds, but had arguably the two most frustrating plays of the night — a hilarious botched dunk off an offensive rebound and an open jumper that hit rim but somehow looked worse than a normal, run of the mill air-ball. You know you’ve reached a breaking point with a player when you literally scream “NOOOOOOOOO!” every time they touch the ball, and Maxiell has most definitely earned those lamentations.
Maxiell didn’t have a monopoly on embarrassing play tonight, however. Brandon Knight blew a wide open layup, miscalculating on a dunk attempt only to find he couldn’t put enough touch on the ball in his attempt to go off glass. It was basically the basketball equivalent to this:
Will Bynum let Mike James — yes, that Mike James — bomb threes on him in the fourth, Knight got similarly torched by Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo, and Lawrence Frank’s play-calling underwhelmed, per usual. One out of timeout set, in particular, proved a perfect summation of the game for Detroit. In 16 seconds, the ball skidded haphazardly around the perimeter until Brandon Knight literally fell down, forcing Khris Middleton to take a desperation three that Vince Carter blocked. The only points Detroit would score after that came on a Charlie V put-back that followed two missed threes and forced the Pistons to foul.
As weird as this is to say, a loss tonight is actually preferable in the long-term. As I enumerated earlier this week, Detroit really has nothing left to play for, and stealing a win they don’t need despite sloppy play would be more infuriating than simply coming up short. This last month or so of basketball looks as though it will be very tough for Pistons fans, at least until(/if) Andre Drummond returns. It’s going to take a lot more infomercial gifs to make it through that stretch, so strap in.