Monroe Leads the Way for Detroit

11/1/13 in NBA   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Oct 30, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) goes to the basket during the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 113-102. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY SportsIt almost seemed like he’d become the forgotten man on the Detroit Pistons roster.  After an extremely active offseason, the team’s 6’11” center became something of a footnote on the new look squad, despite being the team’s most consistent performer the past three seasons.
There was all the hype around the development of second-year center Andre Drummond, who had a remarkable training camp, dominating the summer league and carrying his success over to the NBA preseason.  Then there were the new additions.  Josh Smith received a $54 million contract to help anchor the team’s defense and give them a veteran leader.  The man once known as Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, returned to the team he led to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances.  And the team also traded for high-scoring point guard Brandon Jennings to help bolster the offensive attack as well.
Wednesday’s season opener, a 113-102 victory over the Washington Wizards, was a great team effort all around, but the man who made the biggest difference overall was the nearly forgotten man, Greg Monroe.
Logging a team-high 41 minutes, Monroe was the team’s offensive focal point and the top rebounder on the floor.  He finished the night with 24 points (leading the Pistons), shooting 6-15 from the field and 12-15 from the line.  His 16 rebounds were distantly a team high as Drummond and Kyle Singler were next with 8 a piece, and he also added 3 assists, a steal, and a block.
On the offensive end, Monroe was patient and precise, showing great footwork and excellent range, hitting shots in the paint and stretching the defense as well.  It’s especially huge for the Pistons to see a 24-point night out of Monroe because the team’s other two big men, Smith and Drummond, aren’t exactly offensive specialists.  Smith has his moments but isn’t a very consistent shooter, while Drummond is still very raw on the offensive end and can’t create much on his own.
The Washington Wizards are a team that will most likely be competing with the Pistons for a playoff spot this season.  Their promising young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 37 points on Wednesday, but it took them 39 field goal attempts to get to that point, a credit to the Pistons defense.  The paint was clogged a lot of the night and Washington had to rely greatly on their outside game.  Veteran swingman Trevor Ariza really helped keep things close for the Wizards with 6 threes and a game-high 28 points on the night.  Without his sharp shooting, the Wizards likely would have been beaten pretty badly.
Will Bynum did a great job filling in for Brandon Jennings as the team’s starting point guard.  He scored 19 points and dished out 5 assists on the night.  Winning decisively without Jennings is a great sign for the team’s depth this year.  Jennings is easily the team’s best offensive player and a pretty safe bet to lead the team in scoring.
The team’s next opponent is the Memphis Grizzlies, who are coming off a 7-point road loss to the San Antonio Spurs.  It’ll be tough for the Pistons to go into Memphis and send a talented Grizzlies team to 0-2, but after that the Pistons host the Boston Celtics on Sunday, a very winnable game.  In an Eastern Conference that is pretty balanced after the top 4 or 5 teams, staying around .500 or just a few games over will likely keep your team in contention for the playoffs throughout the season.  And after a solid outing in game one, the Pistons appear to have a solid shot at ending their 4-year playoff drought.
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