The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons have had a promising start to the year, especially considering the absence of starting point guard Reggie Jackson.
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However, these seven games without Jackson have shown us much more than the Pistons would be a lot better if Ish Smith was able to play as the sixth man.
The most glaring issue in need of addressing is the gigantic gulf between their best and their worst performances.
So far there has been absolutely no middle ground between putting in a dominant wire to wire victory and getting blown out in the first quarter, never looking like a serious threat to win.
Against the Toronto Raptors in the opening game of the season we were treated to the Mr. Hyde version of the Pistons.
DeRozan has been white-hot to start the season and Andre Drummond did receive a sharp elbow to the head in the opening minutes, which allowed Valanciunas to feast, but to go down with such little effort in the opening game was disheartening.
The result was all the more confusing when the Pistons transformed into Dr. Jekyll and won their next three games by an average of 18 points.
These wins were then bookended by a soul crushing 109-101 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, where the final score looked a lot more flattering than it was in reality thanks to the Pistons deciding to play defence after giving up 71 points in the first half.
There was a momentary bounce back in the shape of a 17-point win over the Denver Nuggets, before being stomped into oblivion in an 114-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
With the huge losses to the Raptors and the Clippers you could be forgiven for thinking the Detroit Pistons just can’t hang with teams at the top of the NBA, but that doesn’t explain why the Nets were able to dismantle them so easily.
The cause of the Pistons inconsistent performances may stem from their inconsistent defence.
When looking at the team’s shooting numbers across the first seven games there isn’t a huge discrepancy between their best in their worst.
In their four wins so far they’ve averaged an effective field goal percentage of 51.1, while in their losses they recorded 44 per cent against the Raptors, 47.2 per cent against the Nets and 39 per cent against the Clippers.
If you took the shooting percentages from the first two losses and inserted them into any of the Pistons four wins they wouldn’t look too out-of-place, which leads me to believe the problem is with the defence.
Looking at the difference between the Pistons best and worst defence is alarming.
In their wins their opponents average an effective field goal percentage of just 40.45, but this balloons out to 58.13 in losses.
It’s likely these numbers would be even worse if anybody on the Raptors was a competent three-point shooter.
For a team trying to compete for fifth or even fourth seed, having teams shoot almost 18 percent better when you’re having an off night is unacceptable.
It’s incredibly frustrating that the Pistons are having these blowout performances on defence, because when they’re switched on they’re one of the most stifling defences in the league.
The Pistons are currently sixth in the league for opponent points per game (96), and were actually sitting second behind the Clippers before the two teams played.
In the four wins they have only given up an average of 85 points, which sees them tied for first with the Clippers in opponent points per game when at home.
In their three losses, which have all come on the road, they are giving up 110.7 points per game, making them the fifth worst in the league.
It seems all of this could simply be caused by the Detroit Pistons playing on the road.
However, it’s hard to believe the Pistons could just suddenly become a poor travelling team overnight when they weren’t too bad for a young team last season.
They had an 18-23 road record in 2015-16, which isn’t amazing but is still serviceable.
They also only gave up 102.8 points per game on the road last season, which put them twelfth in the NBA and ranked them ahead of teams like the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics.
Clearly they’ve improved on defence, as they were giving up 100.1 points at home last season, so why is everything falling to pieces on the road but looking like gold at home?
Unfortunately, that is a question only those on the inside would be able to identify.