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Stan Van Gundy frustrated with Detroit defense: “We just haven’t been able to stop anybody”

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In November, the Detroit Pistons allowed 103 points per 100 possessions on defense. In December they were giving up 105.1 — and the decline is picking up speed. In their last five games, the Pistons are allowing 110.1 points per 100.

For a team whose offense has not found any kind of consistent groove — 21st in the NBA, and the return of Reggie Jackson from injury did not help — the defense needs to be elite. It’s not.

Coach Stan Van Gundy is frustrated and doesn’t quite know what to do. He said as much the Pistons gave up 121 points to the Pacers, via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

“I thought our closeouts were bad; we just left people open,” Van Gundy said. “It’s like we hope people are gonna miss early on. We wait to see if we’re gonna have to make the effort to closeout.”

Van Gundy admitted toying with the idea of a lineup change (he’s already done that once, sending Tobias Harris to the bench and starting Jon Leuer, but that has been a defensive disaster.

“I don’t know,” Van Gundy said. “We gotta go back and look and decide – not only who to play, but what we need to do, what we need to work on. We just haven’t been able to stop anybody.”

Jackson had his coach’s back saying it’s the players, not the scheme.

“It’s beyond schematic. People just walk into the paint. People are literally shooting warmup shots that’s like drill work. It’s a joke. It’s something that we gotta do. Coach can’t do nothing about it. It don’t matter if he has a scheme or not or not a scheme. If we were to play pick-up (basketball), I would hope so somebody would kick us out the gym.”

Right now the Pistons have been kicked out of the playoffs, falling to 12th in the East, two games back of eight seed Chicago. You would think that would be enough motivation.

LeBron, Irving and Love all questionable as Cavs face Bulls

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James stayed home from shootaround and is one of three Cleveland stars questionable for Wednesday night’s game against Chicago.

James has been fighting a cold but played Monday night in a win over New Orleans. The team advised him to skip the morning workout to get some extra rest.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are also questionable to face the Bulls. Irving has missed the past two games with a hamstring issue, and Love continues to recover from food poisoning. Coach Tyronn Lue said Monday that Love lost 10 pounds while he was sick.

The Cavs have won 13 straight games with James in the lineup. After facing Chicago, the defending NBA champions will leave for a six-game road trip, which will conclude with a Jan. 16 matchup at Golden State.

Chicago’s Dwyane Wade is a game-time decision with a swollen left knee. He missed Monday’s game against Charlotte.

Check out the Top 10 dunks of December (VIDEO)

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You probably missed a few of these when they happened, what with the Christmas shopping/parties/craziness. So enjoy them now, courtesy NBA.com.

There’s some Sam Decker throwing it down hard, Richard Jefferson defying age, vicious Victor Oladipo, and of course Larry Nance Jr. making his pitch for the dunk contest at the expense of Brook Lopez.

Joel Embiid: “By the end of my career, I want to be a point guard” (it’s a joke, relax)

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Joel Embiid has a great sense of humor, which shows up more on his Instagram account than anywhere else.

But it popped up in a postgame interview Tuesday after the Sixers’ dramatic win, when he was asked about playing alongside friend Nerlens Noel (full video via CSNPhilly.com above). If you prefer your humor written out:

“I’ve always thought that I’m a guard so having him rolling to the basket, because he’s so athletic, he can catch lobs, and me just playing on the perimeter or posting up and just handling the ball — by the end of my career, I want to be a point guard, so that was good.”

Who does he think he is, Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Obviously, he’s joking. Embiid is a good passer, although like a lot of rookies he’s turning the ball over too much (he turns the ball over twice as much as he gets an assist). He is shooting 38.6 percent from three, which is better than Nik Stauskas or Dario Saric or a few of the other Sixers’ alleged sharpshooters.

What I want to see is how his passing and shooting blends with Ben Simmonds. Brett Brown wants to see that, too.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Raptors’ Jakob Poeltl airballs a free throw (VIDEO)

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Hack-a-Poeltl?

Toronto rookie Jakob Poeltl is shooting 52 percent from the free throw line this season, although nobody has gone to the hacking yet because he doesn’t get a lot of run (he’s played in just two of the last six Raptors games). The exception was Tuesday night, when the Raptors were at the end of a road trip, getting blown out by the Spurs, and he saw 25 minutes. In that time he got to the free throw line four times, hitting two.

But he also air balled one.

Which leads to a little more attention than he might want.