The Pistons narrowly avoided dropping to 0-3 with Allen Iverson in their lineup last night. But it wasn't pretty by any means.
Playing against a Sacramento team missing leading scorer Kevin Martin, Detroit got all it could handle, trailing by 13 points after a quarter and playing from behind until as late as a couple of minutes into the fourth quarter. After a surprise loss in New Jersey and a wipeout at the Palace of Auburn Hills at the hands of our beloved Celtics over the weekend, it's hard to imagine this was truly the bounce-back performance the Pistons' faithful was likely expecting.
Detroit had trouble at both ends of the floor against the shorthanded Kings. Their offense looked stagnant throughout the evening, and with the exceptions of Tayshaun Prince and Allen Iverson, no one was all that productive. Prince poured in 26 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while Iverson put in 30 on 9-of-19 shooting (in addition to his nine assists and seven boards), and the two combined to shoot 19-for-20 from the foul line. But overall, the smooth ball movement was still lacking, and the shooting touches weren't there overall as the Pistons fell below 42 percent from the field.
On the other side, they couldn't seem to lock down defensively until late in the fourth quarter when a sequence featuring four turnovers in five possessions did the Kings in. That said, Jason Thompson (7-of-10), Beno Udrih (8-of-14) and Spencer Hawes (9-of-15) were all effective from the field, and for most of the night, the Kings did a markedly better job of finding the open man, setting up more uncontested jumpers and a few open bunnies and dunks inside as well.
That Iverson and Prince broke out and that Rasheed Wallace harassed Brad Miller into a miserable 2-of-16 performance were integral in allowing the Pistons to eke one out last night, and to some extent, that's what good teams do: They find ways to win the games they are supposed to win, even on nights when they don't have their best stuff. Certainly, the Celtics won a couple of games last year (and have already done so this year) while looking a bit less dominant than one might expect against an inferior team, and as always, a win is a win. But for a Pistons team coming off an upset and an embarrassment in consecutive games, it sure seemed as though there might have been a bit more of a desire to really step on a shorthanded opponent's throat, and that was not there.
Three games into the AI era, there is a lot of time needed for the Pistons to continue to jell, and Veterans Day might be a bit early to get too panicky for their faithful in any case.
But it's still an odd feeling to see them struggling.