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NBA: Detroit Pistons can't deliver in clutch

Published March 14, 2012 12:19 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Here's the disappointing thing for the Detroit Pistons — more specifically for head coach Lawrence Frank.

His team, ripe with youth in key spots, dragged down with veterans past their prime in others, had a chance to overcome the Utah Jazz on Monday at EnergySolutions Arena. This was a tie game with five minutes remaining, and one in which the final possessions seemed destined to matter.

Instead, Utah's 105-90 win morphed into a late laugher for the Jazz, and an emotional moment for Al Jefferson, who played despite the death of his grandmother, finishing with 33 points, 12 rebounders and the first 3-pointer of his career.

Frank was convinced this didn't have to happen. A few more defensive stops, a few more timely shots and the Pistons could've escaped Salt Lake City with their fifth win in six games. A little more attention to the finer points, and Detroit, which suffered a horrid start to its season, could've easily walked away the victor.

But the Pistons are 15-27 this year for a reason. It's because they have largely failed to make plays when it is most important.

"Yeah, well, you look at our inability to get stops, and we gave up 30 points in the fourth quarter," Frank said. "Our pick-and-roll defense let us down tonight. You look at the stat sheet and Al Jefferson had 33 points, but only six of those points came on true post-ups. We never got them below 50 percent for the game. We were trading buckets a little bit, but we could never get a true game plan defensively."

Frank was irked that Utah scored 40 of its points in the paint, especially because the Jazz are statistically among the worst 3-point-shooting teams in the league. Frank was also a bit angry at his offense in the final period and its habit of jacking up contested jumpers at the worst possible time.

Rodney Stuckey played well for the Pistons, with 29 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Greg Monroe was good in spurts, with 14 points, five assists and five rebounds. But those two received little offensive help.

Rookie Brandon Knight scored 11 points, but went 4-of-12 and didn't really set his teammates up. Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell were largely nonfactors.

"They made some crucial shots down the stretch," Stuckey said. "We knew coming into this game that we had to protect the paint. We knew they weren't really shooting the ball from 3 really well. Give them credit. They executed down the stretch, and that's why we lost."

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tonyaggieville