Pistons End Losing Streak, But Smallball Questions Remain
So everything is golden again in Detroit, right? Not quite.
Despite a respectable eight-point margin of victory, this game was closer than it appeared; the Grizzlies actually led by two after three, and the score was still tied with fewer than five minutes left. As it happened, the Grizzlies played like you'd expect an 11-29 team to play down the stretch, but against a more competent foe this game would have been a coin-flip.
If you watched the game, you heard TNT's Mike Fratello and Dick Stockton say several times that Michael Curry would most likely change the starting lineup following the game, apparently in reference to comments Curry made to reporters before Saturday's loss to the Hornets. To top it off, sideline reporter David Aldridge even asked Rip Hamilton at halftime and Allen Iverson after the game how they'd feel about coming off the bench.
But as entertaining as it was to watch Hamilton and Iverson squirm while (finally) giving scripted politically correct answers about putting the team first, we may be getting ahead of ourselves.
I was Curry's office on Saturday when he made his comments, and I should stress that he never actually promised change one way or another, simply that he'd re-evaluate the lineup after Monday's game -- just like how he said last month he'd re-evaluate the lineup, only to go back to the three-guard lineup when Hamilton came back from a groin injury last week.
That said, Curry isn't completely oblivious to the shortcomings of smallball, especially as it pertains to his big men being left out in the cold. Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess will always get their minutes, but Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Kwame Brown all take turns riding the pine.
"One of the big reasons why I struggle with playing the small lineup is that it's tough to play more than three bigs when Tayshaun [Prince] is a 35-minute-a-night guy and he starts at the four," Curry said before Saturday's game. "So you consider him a starter as a big, you're really playing four bigs: Tay, Sheed, Amir and Dyess."
As a result, the Pistons get killed on the boards and in the paint more often than not. Things weren't too bad on Monday night (mostly because McDyess went nuts for 16 boards in 25 minutes off the bench), but the Grizzlies still out-worked the Pistons on the glass 45 rebounds to 42.
Detroit's two starting "bigs" -- Prince (three rebounds) and Wallace (eight) -- combined for just 11 boards, or 10 fewer than what the Grizzlies got out of Marc Gasol (13) and Rudy Gay (eight).
It's one thing to be out-worked on the boards by the cream of the crop, but when the league's gutter teams are routinely taking it to you, something needs to change. The strange thing is that Curry seems to realize this, he just hasn't done anything about it ... yet.