The NBA: Tune Up

Greg Monroe probably won't see any playoff action this season,
but he can do his best to keep on trying.
*All images are by the Associated Press.

"We've been playing pretty good on the road," guard Rodney Stuckey said. "We've just got to finish. It will be a test but I think we're up for the challenge."

The Detroit Pistons might be harboring some hope that they can still get into the playoffs, but don't be fooled. They won't.

They've done relatively well on their recent hame games, but even that won't be enough to mask the myriad of flaws they have.

Despite having a promising big man in Greg Monroe, don't expect the Pistons to rule the interior. Monroe isn't the best shotblocker around (not even on this team), though he'll grab those boards. Ben Wallace stopped being Ben Wallace three seasons ago, and, well, when a  team needs to rely heavily on guys like Jonas Jerebko and Jason Maxiell, you know they're in trouble.

The fact that the Pistons play nine of the next 10 games on the road further underscores the futility that awaits them. With only Charlotte having fewer road victories than Detroit, don't look for Monroe & Co. to continue hovering around the 8th seed anytime soon.

Coach Lawrence Frank, however, has seen some promise in their last few games. The Pistons beat both the Nets and Celts and got close against the Cavs and Grizz, sandwiched by a loss in Toronto before All-Star Weekend.

When Frank checks the stas, and and sees that they have improved since their awful start, he should feel a little excited. The Pistons were outscored by about 10 points per in their 24 games. Since then, they've outscored the opposition by about 1.3ppg.

"It starts at the defensive end. We're playing much more consistent defensively. We're getting into the paint, we're getting more baskets in transition, we're defending the 3 better, we've had a huge jump in points per possession, we're getting to the free throw line. There's probably 16 different factors where we've gotten better in each of those areas," says Frank.

Will they continue their slow but steady rise and find themselves alive when the postseason starts?


But maybe next year, with a tune up here and there, who knows, right? Motor City might come to life once again.

After the JUMP, March 12, 2012 stat-stuffers:

MIL over NJN, 105-99
Brandon Jennings scored 18 of his 34 points in the second half and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the New Jersey Nets for the 10th straight time. Drew Gooden had 15 of his 23 points after halftime, with Milwaukee able to overcome a slow start to remain undefeated against New Jersey for more than three years. For the Nets, a career game from Kris Humphries wasn't enough to overcome the absence of star point guard Deron Williams, who sat out his second straight game because of a strained right calf.

CHI over NYK, 104-99
Derrick Rose scored 32 points and helped the Bulls pull away down the stretch en route to a victory over the Knicks, keeping New York winless in March. Rose added 7 assists and 6 rebounds as the Bulls improved to 10-1 over their last 11 games. Chicago received a spark off the bench from Taj Gibson, who contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points on as many shots for the Knicks, who have dropped six straight games, tying a season high.

CHA over NOH, 73-71
Bismack Biyombo blocked Trevor Ariza's dunk in the final seconds as the Charlotte Bobcats held on for their sixth win of the season in a game between the worst teams in both conferences. Ariza got free on the right side after an inbounds pass with 5.2 seconds left and drove hard to the basket, but Biyombo was there to reject his dunk. The Bobcats, with the worst record in the NBA at 6-34, snapped a three-game losing streak. Meanwhile, New Orleans had lost five of six for a 10-32 record -- worst in the Western Conference.

SAS over WAS, 112-97
Tony Parker had 31 points and 7 assists in his return to the lineup, helping the San Antonio Spurs continue their recent dominance over the Washington Wizards. The Spurs have now won 12 in a row over the Wizards, who have lost 12 straight in the Alamo City. Tim Duncan added 14 points to surpass Clyde Drexler (22,195) into 25th place on the NBA's all-time career-scoring list. The Spurs improved to 3-3 on a seven-game homestand that ends Wednesday against Orlando. JaVale McGee ended with 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Wizards, who fell to 3-15 away from the nation's capital this season. 

UTA over DET, 105-90
Al Jefferson scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and sparked a late run that gave the Jazz a victory over the Pistons. Jefferson, whose grandmother passed away over the weekend, also pulled down 12 rebounds and made his first career three-pointer in the closing seconds. The Jazz were coming off a 2-3 road trip. Detroit was trying to build off a perfect three-game homestand, but fell in Utah for the ninth straight time. Rodney Stuckey scored a team-high 29 points and handed out 7 assists in defeat.

MIN over PHX, 127-124
Kevin Love scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half, leading the Timberwolves past the Suns in a back-and- forth shootout. Minnesota started its seven-game road trip by ending a nine-game losing streak to Phoenix. It was a nice boost for the T-Wolves, who lost rookie star Ricky Rubio to a season-ending knee injury last week. Nikola Pekovic added 24 points and 8 rebounds to contribute in snapping a two-game slide. This was Phoenix's first setback at home since losing to Golden State on February 22.

BOS over LAC, 94-85
Paul Pierce scored 25 points and made some clutch shots down the stretch, helping the Boston Celtics defeat the Los Angeles Clippers. Kevin Garnett added 21 points and 8 rebounds for the Celtics, who bounced back from a loss to the Lakers on Sunday. Ray Allen tallied 15 points and Rajon Rondo donated 12 points and 10 assists. Blake Griffin ended with 24 points and 9 boards for the Clippers, who have lost two in a row and four of five. 

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Brandon Jennings (MIL) – 34
Al Jefferson (UTA) – 33
Derrick Rose (CHI) – 32
Tony Parker (SAS) & Kris Humphries (NJN) – 31 

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Kris Humphries (NJN) – 18
Chris Kaman 16
Javale McGee (WAS) – 15 

Kris Humphries has been awesome for the Nets of late.

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Rajon Rondo (BOS) & Steve Nash (PHX) – 10
Luke Ridnour (MIN) & Jarrett Jack (NOH) – 9 

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Paul Millsap (UTA) – 5
Mo Williams (LAC) & Gustavo Ayon (NOH) – 4 

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Bismack Biyombo (CHA) – 4
A LOT with 3!!!

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Brandon Jennings (MIL) – 6
Kevin Love (MIN) – 5
Channing Frye (PHX) & Nick Young (WAS) – 4 

Brandon Jennings shot the lights out as
Milwaukee edged New Jersey.

March 12, 2012 First Five
C – Al Jefferson (UTA) – 33pts, 12rebs, 2blks, 1ast
F – Kris Humphries (NJN) – 31pts, 18rebs, 3blks, 2stls, 1ast
F – Jared Dudley (PHX) – 28pts, 9rebs, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk
G – Brandon Jennings (MIL) – 34pts, 7rebs, 7asts, 6 treys, 2blks
G – Tony Parker (SAS) – 31pts, 7asts, 3rebs, 1stl, 1blk

Tony Parker and the Spurs looked primed for a
bounce-back postseason.
Honorable Mention:
Rodney Stuckey (DET) – 29pts, 7asts, 4rebs, 2stls
Steve Nash (PHX) – 25pts, 10asts, 3rebs
Drew Gooden (MIL) – 23pts, 8rebs, 7asts, 1stl

Daily Zap:

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.

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